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Vitale, McCaffery fight cancer together

[ 0 ] June 21, 2013 |

RIVERSIDE — Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery has seen up close and personal the devastating effects of cancer.

Both of his parents died from the disease, and since their passing McCaffery and his wife, Margaret, have been on a mission to raise money to help the fight against cancer.

McCaffery’s latest effort has him joining forces with ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale, who also is on a personal crusade to stamp out cancer. McCaffery and Vitale are the headliners at the third annual The 380 Companies & Dick Vitale Gala & Golf fundraiser.

The two-day event is being held at the Riverside Casino and Golf Resort and started Friday night with a dinner and a silent auction. A golf tournament will be held today, with all the proceeds being donated to fight pediatric cancer.

“We put a lot of time and a lot of effort into this cause and believe very strongly in trying to beat cancer,” McCaffery said Friday, just minutes before addressing the crowd. “We got involved a little over 10 years ago. At that time, I had just lost my father, and subsequently I have lost my mother as well.

“So Margaret and I are very passionate about it and the Coaches vs. Cancer program is the charity of choice for college basketball coaches.”

Vitale has been leading the fight against cancer since his close friend, former North Carolina State men’s basketball coach Jim Valvano, died from the disease in 1993. Valvano led North Carolina State to the 1983 national title, but his courage and his compassion while fighting cancer has since become his lasting legacy.

Valvano was instrumental in establishing the V Foundation, which according to Vitale has raised more than $125 million for cancer research.

“Jimmy V, to me, his legacy is not going to be cutting the nets down and winning a national title,” said Vital, who is on the Board of Directors for the V Foundation. “That was phenomenal. But to me, nothing is greater than when you affect generation after generation. And that’s what is happening. I’m very proud.”

McCaffery and his wife have been actively involved in Coaches vs. Cancer and with the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. But this weekend’s event is the first time that they have teamed up with Vitale to raise money.

“Dick has been doing this for 20 years,” Fran McCaffery said. “Everybody remembers when he worked with Jimmy Valvano. They were unbelievable together. They became great friends. Andy Jimmy, of course, died too young.”

Vitale takes pride in knowing that all the money raised by the V Foundation is used exclusively for cancer research. The V Foundation is powered by a $17 million endowment.

“There is no way I’m sitting here today begging and pleading for dollars and getting up with a microphone and traveling all over the country and doing what I’m doing if we were going to put a small portion of the money into research,” said Vitale, who lives in Florida. “Every dollar goes into it, and I know Jimmy V would be proud to know that.”

McCaffery was the head coach at UNC-Greensboro when he began to raise money for cancer research more than a decade ago. He continued with his fundraising efforts while coaching at Siena and is now doing the same thing at Iowa, where he is headed into his fourth season as coach.

He does it to help an important cause, but also to honor his parents.

“What it does is it makes you more passionate about getting involved,” McCaffery said of losing both of his parents to cancer. “Because so many people say, ‘I want to get involved.’ Well, how do you do it? How do you go about it? Do you really put the time in to figure how to be involved and try to make a difference? And I’m in a position where I can do that. When I first started I was at UNC-Greensboro and I was not nearly as high-profile. I did what I could. Siena was a little bit better and here is a little bit better.”

And while the fifth against cancer was the primary reason for McCaffery’s appearance Friday, he also was prepared to talk about his team, which is coming off a 25-win season and runner-up finish in the National Invitation Tournament.

“Cancer is the reason I’m here and it’s going to be the focused of what we talk about,” McCaffery said. “But they did ask me to spend a couple minutes updating Hawk fans. There are a lot of Hawk fans here.

“It’s a basketball event with Dick being here and with me being here. And that’s OK, we’ll talk about basketball. People want to know what’s going on with our players in the summer time.”

Vitale spoke highly of Iowa’s potential for the upcoming season. Many believe the Hawkeyes are on the verge of making the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006.

“Last year they had some heartbreaking losses,” Vitale said. “I think you’re going to see a lot of those close games now because of experience going their way.”

Vitale said Iowa fans should expect the NCAA Tournament drought to end next season.

“I think in reality and I think personally if it doesn’t happen it should be a disappointment for them, for Fran, for a lot of the fans because everybody is anticipating it,” Vitale said. “I think right now they could be a real legitimate sleeper team in the (Big Ten) Conference.”

 

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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