May 30, 2008
When you talk about a friend and colleague, let me tell you about John Saunders. John does an amazing job on ESPN and ABC as Mr. Versatility; you give him an assignment and it will be handled in a professional way. Recently he was the host of out gala to raise money for the Jimmy V Foundation down in Sarasota, Florida. He handled the night in such a wonderful fashion, with over 750 in attendance.
John and I had the honor and pleasure of introducing so many celebrities, such as Bob Knight, Pat Summitt, Roy Williams, Billy Donovan, Bill Self, John Havlicek, Jon Gruden, Chuck Daly, Pat Riley and so many more. You would have never known that John did it with such a heavy heart.
His dad was seriously ill. Bernie was battling cancer, a disease that John has fought so hard, hours after hours in memory of his buddy Jimmy V. They were as close as could be during Jimmy's tenure at ESPN. They were like family.
It was tough for John as he had to fly back right after the event.
Unfortunately John's dad Bernie lost his battle against cancer on May 26th. As I spoke to John, I could feel in his heart he was so proud of his dad's efforts. When I asked what he could share for his dad's memory, he simply asked that people send donations to the V Foundation to beat the dreaded disease.
Once again John was focused in the goal of helping the V Foundation. John is class personified. When I had my with throat surgery, it was John waiting in the recovery room.
He is a friend, a super human being. Our thoughts, prayers and sympathies go out to you, your wife Wanda and your entire family during this tough time. Trust me, will continue our battle so that people like John's dad won't have to suffer from that dreaded disease.
I have stated so many times, whether someone is rich or poor, Christian or Jewish, it doesn't matter -- the disease is vicious.
Because of people like John Saunders and the other members of the V Foundation board, we will wage an incredible battle. If you are a fan of John Saunders, you can help relieve some of that pain by making a donation to the V Foundation in memory of John's dad.
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in December 1979. Send him a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.