There is a passage in Dick Vitale’s new book, titled “It’s Awesome, Baby,” where the iconic voice of college basketball labels Kansas coach Bill Self as a future Hall of Famer.
Vitale, who turned 75 years old, wasn’t always sure this would be the case. When Self took over for Roy Williams in 2003, Vitale thought Self was in for an “up-hill battle”, as he puts it, to equal what Williams accomplished in Lawrence. More than a decade later, in a book that includes 75 chapters of memories and serves as a deep appreciation of college basketball, Vitale concedes that he was wrong about Self.
“I thought it was an impossible job,” Vitale writes, “but Self came in there and proved me wrong. He continued what Roy had going, winning 325 games, an 82% winning percentage in his first 10 years.”
On Friday, while in town to call Kansas’ 71-65 victory over Florida, Vitale wanted to set the record straight on Self. The urban legend, he says, is that he told Self not to take the Kansas job in 2003 when Self was still at Illinois. The real story, Vitale said, is that he told Self that if he was happy at Illinois, he shouldn’t “mess with happy.”
The book, published by Olathe-based publisher Ascend Books, features more than just Vitale’s thoughts on today’s coaches. It offers a look at Vitale’s life in basketball, “from his blue-collar roots in New Jersey, his first college coaching job at Rutgers, his ultimate dream job with the Pistons (where he got the Ziggy!), to his 35 years at ESPN.”