ESPN commentator Dick Vitale can get animated, there’s no denying that. But his usual schtick is playful, goofy, and congenial. That was not the case Monday morning when he called into 104.5 ESPN Radio in Baton Rouge to discuss, amongst other things, his strong opinions on LSU basketball and suspended coach Will Wade.
Wade was suspended indefinitely by the school earlier this month after he refused to meet with them and NCAA officials to discuss his infamous June 2017 phone call noted in an FBI investigation regarding payments made to recruits to commit to Adidas-affiliated schools. In that call, Wade mentioned a “strong-ass offer” for a recruit who is almost certainly current LSU freshman guard Javonte Smart.
— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) March 23, 2019
A message to all LSU fans / there r many that r saddened / sick of the comments by Wade on a FBI wiretap yes those that r REAL FANS & than there r those that try to justify what he has done by saying oh yeah everyone does it . Pls get REAL / Wade has humiliated / disgraced LSU
— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) March 9, 2019
Vitale has been extremely vocal about what he thinks of Wade and his decision not to speak with officials. Of course, Vitale also has a history of being choosey when it comes to coaches he supports and does not support during scandals. It seems, at least from afar, that he tends to outright believe coaches he has a preexisting relationship with, like Rick Pitino, while simultaneously refusing to believe a coach like Wade, who he is not as close to.
So with all of that in mind, Monday saw Vitale calling 104.5 ESPN’s Off The Bench show, hosted by Jordy Culotta and T-Bob Hebert, to discuss his thoughts on the matter. You can listen to the whole interview here.
Things quickly went off the rails as Vitale came into the interview presuming that he was going to get grilled over his opinions. He says he “likes to tell the truth and tell the facts” before launching into an explanation as to why the situation is different for Wade than it is for Pitino. His main thesis is that since Wade was recorded allegedly saying he’d made an offer while Pitino’s involvement remains hearsay, Wade’s situation is vastly different and worse, even though Pitino oversaw a program rife with scandal and off-the-court issues for years.
Then, for some reason, Vitale went on a mini-rant about his own accolades and accomplishments in a way only Dick Vitale can.
— Nathan Elliot Velasquez (@IncredibleMrNat) March 25, 2019
Culotta and Hebert rebutted by noting there were 20 schools involved in the FBI investigation, so why does Vitale go in so hard on LSU and Wade? Vitale stayed on message and doubled down on his argument about the audio recording.
In a solid rebuttal, the radio hosts note that no one has actually heard the tapes in question and when they press Vitale about whether or not he’s heard them, he defers. And when they bring up the fact that Bill Self shows up in the transcripts and wonder if Dick thinks he’s coached his last game at Kansas, Vitale refuses to bite, noting that Self, who is a “close friend of mine” has yet to admit fault.
"Get @YahooForde, get @PeteThamel, these are respected journalists. Get guys like @DanWetzel, get @Mark_Schlabach. They'll say twice as much as what I say." @DickieV on his criticism of @LSUBasketball coach Will Wade on @OTB_ESPN.
— Rivers Hughey (@RivsHughey) March 25, 2019
Ultimately, Vitale isn’t wrong to challenge Wade’s version of events based on what was in the report. However, he still seems to be putting on blinders when it comes to his “close friends” who are also involved in the investigation and what they may or may not have done. It’s clear that if you’re a friend, you get the benefit of the doubt, but if you’re not, you don’t. And that’s not really how journalism works (not that anyone considers Dick Vitale a journalist, of course).
For their part, Culotta and Hebert held their own quite well. They came at all of Vitale’s opinions and argumentative nature with facts and logic. When Vitale demands that LSU fans have Mark Schlabach look into the case as a trustworthy reporter, they note that they’ve already spoken to Schlabach who “went out of his way to make it painfully clear…that there is no actual smoking gun” when it comes to Wade. Vitale merely barrels on, pulling the conversation sideways when it’s implied that “everyone” is mad at him.
“What are you fighting for?” asks Vitale at one point in the middle of the argument. Clearly, he came into the call wanting a fight, so he probably shouldn’t have been surprised to find one.
Hey a thank u to @JordyCulotta & T-Bob for letting me share my views on @espn radio Baton Rouge & y the suspension of Will Wade was a Must / even though we disagree in our feelings that is the beauty of sports .We do agree the Tigers r talented & good enough to keep rolling .
— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) March 25, 2019
At least he was cordial on Twitter after the fact…