On Friday night, as Dick Vitale likes to say, Sarasota will become the toast of the sports world, as ESPN’s voice of college basketball hosts his seventh annual Gala at the Ritz-Carlton to benefit The V Foundation for Cancer Research.
Celebrities will be all over the place, from John Calipari and Greg Schiano to Ricky Watters and Gary Sheffield. This year’s three honorees are Lou Holtz, Gary Williams and, well, some other guy.
“Yeah, right,” said Villanova coach Jay Wright. “And me.
“I guarantee you I’ll be the first speaker, not the last.”
But one of them nonetheless.
“It’s a great honor,” he said. “I think it’s mostly for my involvement with the foundation, playing in their tournament and working with Dick in this event. I’ve been an attendee every year.
“It’s very humbling, especially to be included with those guys.”
There will be 1,000 people there, raising $1 million, all of which goes to cancer research. The V Foundation is named for legendary coach Jim Valvano.
“That’s the beauty of the foundation,” said Wright, who is also involved with the City 6 Coaches for Cancer cause. "It’s amazing.”
And on Saturday night, the honorees and their guests will have dinner at Vitale’s house.
“To be in that position, where they think that you are worthy of being honored, I’m very, very fortunate that I can help them do some great things,” Wright said. “It does make you feel a little uncomfortable. It's just because I’m the coach at Villanova, and that means something ...
“I remember the first one started at [Vitale’s] house. It’s just grown into this huge thing. He’s [honored] some unbelievable people: Bobby Knight, Mike Krzyzewski, Magic Johnson. Last year it was Roy Williams and John Calipari. I think [Vitale] must have picked me before the season. I know I’ll definitely be the only one being honored coming off a losing record.”
Did we mention that there’s an after-party featuring a concert by the Spinners? By then it won’t matter so much who spoke when as the fact that so many showed up for all the right reasons.