When you’re trying to get a basketball museum up and running, it is good business to involve the game’s biggest fan. You want someone who is smitten with the pick and roll in your corner. And better, is willing to talk about it.
No wonder Dick Vitale came to mind when Mark Myre sought to raise funds for the arrival of the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association’s Basketball Museum of Illinois in Pontiac.
The museum’s business developer, Myre set out to lure the sport’s most passionate and loquacious ambassador. His hook was to feature Vitale in an event benefiting the museum and the V Foundation for cancer research, a cause dear to Vitale’s heart.
Thus was born “Dick Vitale Night,” set for Sept. 7 at the Pontiac Elks Country Club.
“I saw Dick Vitale and I wanted the best basketball motivator in the country,” Myre said. “I think he is.
"I’ve heard him four times and I’ve heard Lou Holtz and others. I think Dick is the best speaker in the country. He can motivate a wall.”
A longtime ESPN basketball analyst, Vitale will speak from 7 to 7:30 p.m. Prior to that, he will take part in a meet and greet from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
Myre knows what you’re thinking, that “meet and greet” does not always live up to its billing. In this case, he said, no fan will be left behind.
“Dick will meet with folks and take pictures. He wants to shake hands,” Myre said. “He is going to meet and greet everybody.”
Truth is Vitale needs no introduction. He barged into our living rooms via television in 1979 after coaching at the University of Detroit and with the Detroit Pistons.
He has given us “Diaper Dandy!” and “PTPer!” and the “Trifecta!” He also has given us a headache from time to time. Even then, there was/is no questioning his love for the game and all those who play, coach or simply watch.
Tickets are $50 each and available by contacting Myre at email@example.com or 815-258-6201. Proceeds will be split evenly between the Basketball Museum of Illinois and the V Foundation.
Sponsorships remain available as well for a VIP session with Vitale from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. The night also will include performances by the Pontiac High School music department from 6:45 to 7 p.m. along with silent and live auctions.
There’s also this:
“After Dick speaks we’ll have a bonus round with some Division I coaches who are going to come and talk about their programs,” Myre said. “There will be a lot of surprise guests … some of the big names in high school basketball and some from excellent Division I programs.
“People from all over the state have been calling. We want the whole state to be part of it.”
That goes for the museum as well. Myre and IBCA Museum Director Bruce Firchau have traveled Illinois trumpeting the museum and securing information/memorabilia for exhibits.
The museum will be housed in the former Kmart in Pontiac’s Vermillion Plaza. Since being hired in June 2016, Myre has put on a fullcourt press to help raise the $2.5 million needed for a possible soft opening of a first phase in 2018.
So far 375 donors have joined in. Myre is hoping Vitale’s appearance attracts more. Already on board is the Pontiac Holiday Tournament Committee, which purchased tickets to the Vitale event for its coaches, officials and tournament staff.
“I can’t thank them enough for that,” Myre said.
The game plan — a basketball museum HAS to have a game plan — is to bring a high-profile speaker to Pontiac each September in addition to other fundraising efforts, such as golf outings next year in the Chicago suburbs, at Pontiac (July 9) and at Granite City (July 13).
The goal is to secure the funds to properly celebrate basketball’s rich history in Illinois. No one celebrates the game more than Vitale.