COLUMBIA, S.C. — Legendary college basketball announcer Dick Vitale, who is battling cancer, returned to the airwaves Friday morning at Wofford College, the on-campus radio station that he anchored for 36 years.
Vitale, 76, underwent a second surgery on Wednesday to remove a brain tumor at Duke University, where he began work as an analyst for ESPN in 1979.
“This has really been the hardest-fought battle I have ever had,” Vitale told a crowd that included Duke’s head coach, Mike Krzyzewski, a childhood friend. “But we have won this battle. It was the doctor that said, ‘You got it, and now let’s get back to the sports.’ And that’s what we’re going to do.”
Vitale, who had been on the air after an operation last week to remove a brain tumor, expressed deep gratitude to the people who had reached out to him. He said it’s “mind-boggling” how much support he has received.
“We’ve had a lot of calls and a lot of texts, and I’m so grateful for that,” Vitale said. “For years I’ve gone by the ‘S’ word and ‘cancer,’ and I was fearful of that word, and to hear from so many other people in my life and on campus, it’s beyond words.”
Vitale and Krzyzewski were friends before ESPN, and they served together as assistant coaches with the U.S. Olympic team for several summer international tournaments.
“He’s my dog, he’s my little brother, he’s my big brother,” Krzyzewski said of Vitale. “We all feed off of each other and rely on each other, and we have to support each other.”
Wofford, a Division I program in eastern South Carolina, learned of Vitale’s health scare on Oct. 4 when director of athletics Terry Bailey visited ESPN with the news. It was a particularly unnerving message because Vitale is very involved with the Terriers as an ambassador and an alumnus.
“If Dick had any fear, that has all been taken away,” Bailey said. “The way he treats people is quite uplifting. As excited as I am for Dick, I am even more excited for the Terriers and our fans. We’ve gone through something that is totally unexpected. But we are surrounded by a tremendous community of individuals who care, and we’re proud of that.”
Vitale’s health concerns overshadowed his induction as part of the 2018 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame class last weekend. Vitale had a theleng in sports broadcasting in 1985 while working at CBS, and he worked for Wofford until 2011. He brought his connection to the school by dubbing a year before “Dick Vitale Year of the Wofford Terriers.”
“I love Wofford and I want to take care of Wofford,” Vitale said. “If I can get back on the radio and be a part of that, I’m going to do that.”