Czar Trivia

What’s my dessert specialty that my mother Marie taught me to make when I was a kid?

Czar’s Got Heart: Dick Vitale Gala Tops Fundraising Goal

The 2010 Dick Vitale Gala was another successful effort on behalf of the Jimmy V Foundation to help raise money to fight and eventually beat cancer. There was an overwhelming show of support that reflects how highly people regard Dick Vitale as well as the respect everyone has for late Coach Jim Valvano who died of bone cancer in 1993, when the V Foundation was formed. There were a number of coaches and players who showed up and contributed including Magic Johnson, who introduced honoree Tom Izzo, and Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Caldwell, who introduced Tony Dungy.

Country music star Kenny Chesney was also in attendance. Dick and his wife Lorraine are huge fans of Kenny and have attended a dozen of his concerts. They were back stage talking to Kenny after a recent show and Kenny told them he’d love to come to one of their events and they said they would love to have him and of course he was welcome to come down to Sarasota for the Gala. So Kenny showed up and sat at the table between Dick and Lorraine. During the auction Kenny got in on the action. Coach John Calapari had donated four courtside seats to next year’s Kentucky vs. Tennessee basketball game.  The bidding was going back and forth between Kenny and another gentleman. They had gotten to $38,000 and were waiting for someone to bid $40,000 when Dick jumped up, grabbed the mic and said, “Wait, Kenny Chesney just bid $38,000 for those tickets.” Then he pointed at the other guy and said, “And you’re bidding $38,000 for the tickets … John Calipari, you’ve got to find eight tickets because both of these guys are paying $38,000 to buy four tickets.”  Calipari was standing next to Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl up on the stage and Cal replied, “That’s fine Dickie, you got it. I’m just going to take them out of Bruce’s allotment.” So Dick raised $76,000 that way.

Then Jonn said, “I’ve got a guy out in the audience who’s willing to match whatever we can raise here in the room, up to $100,00. Why don’t we do this, think about how much money we spend when we go out and take friends to dinner and order a couple bottles of good wine. A $500-$600 check is nothing. Why don’t we do this: I’m gonna start out with $1000.” Then he pointed to me at the table and said, “Mike Fratello, you’re in for $1000? I raised my hand and said, “I’m in for $1000.” To which John replied, “If we can find 98 more people in this room out of the 800+ people we have here we’ll have $100,000 and that man will match it. That means in ten minutes we can make $200,000.

It was a moving and inspiring evening, and by the end of the night we had all laughed and cried with Dick and the guests of honor. Thanks to the generosity off all the attendees Dick was able to raise over $1.2 Million for Pediatric Cancer Research. If you would like to make a donation, please call 1-800-4-JIMMYV or click here to visit the V Foundation website and donate online.

Czar’s Playoff Preview: Orlando Magic at Boston Celtics Game 6

Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty ImagesCan’t wait to get home and watch Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Orlando has gained momentum, confidence and belief after inexplicably dropping their first two games at home. The Magic are finally playing with the energy and resolve we would have expected from this team from the beginning. After a 96-92 overtime win over Boston on Monday night to avoid a four-game sweep, Orlando followed up with a decisive 21-point Game 5 win at home on Wednesday. Now they have a legitimate chance to force a seven-game series and go down in the record books as the first team to come back from a 3-0 deficit to win the Conference Finals. But first they’ve got to get past the Celtics in Game 6.

This is also a must-win game for Boston. To echo what’s been said by some of the Celtics players, Boston will treat this like Game 7 because after holding a 3-0 lead in the series they certainly don’t want to lose and go back to Orlando tied for the determining matchup on the heels of three straight Orlando wins. Boston needs to close this out at home tonight.

Unfortunately Game 5 took a heavy toll on the Celtics. Both Glen Davis and Marquis Daniels sustained concussions; Rasheed Wallace suffered fourth quarter back spasms; Kendrick Perkins nearly faced suspension for Game 6 after receiving his seventh technical foul of the postseason, though one of the technicals was subsequently rescinded by the league. And meanwhile Tony Allen has been trying to play through the pain of a turned ankle he suffered in Game 2. The reason teams are always anxious to close out a series as soon as possible is because you never know what the injury factor is going to be given the extremely physical nature of playoff basketball.

ESPN will televise tonight’s Game 6 action live from the TD Garden at 8:30 PM ET.

Czar’s Playoff Preview: Suns at Lakers Game 5

Stoudemire_Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesAt last we have a series. Well, two actually. After seeing far too many lopsided matchups in the semis followed by what appeared to be two more sweeps in the making, both the Eastern and Western Conference Finals have finally earned our attention. Down 3-0 to the title-hungry Celts, the Magic managed to get one foot out of the grave with a Game 4 upset and are back in contention after last night’s Game 5 win at home.

The Suns also held down the fort at home and now we have a series that’s tied up at two wins a piece heading into Game 5 tonight back in LA. One major difference for Phoenix in Games 3 and 4 was the success of their junk zone defense, which confused the Lakers offense and forced them to rely on far too many long perimeter shots. In the first two games the Lakers averaged 126 ppg, but in Games 3 and 4 they only averaged 107.5 points. That’s nearly a 20-point differential between the number of points the Suns gave up in the first two games and the amount they gave up when playing on their home court.

While the Suns’ enigmatic zone certainly tripped up the Lakers at the defensive end, they had two key things happen offensively. In the first game it was an individual taking over, while in the next game it was the bench that collectively crushed the Lakers reserves. In Game 3 Amar’e Stoudemire had a huge, huge game with 42 points and 11 rebounds. And in Game 4 the major offensive factor for Phoenix was their bench, which outscored the Lakers bench 54-20, of which 15 were made by Lamar Odom.

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

For the Lakers this becomes a must win at home because they don’t want to go back to Phoenix down 3-2 in the series. Will Phoenix’s zone defense continue to be effective or will the Lakers figure out how to solve the problems that the zone defense presented for them in the last two games?

TNT will televise tonight’s Game 5 action live from the Staples Center at 9:00 PM ET.

From the Booth: Marv Talks Shop with President Obama

I thought my broadcast partner Marv Albert did an outstanding job interviewing President Barack Obama for TNT. In fact, he had the President in stitches with a couple of his questions. However, I became concerned when, upon closer inspection, I thought I saw Marv wearing President Obama’s tie. It would be alarming to me if he showed up for the White House interview and had forgotten to wear one. I wonder if Obama had to loan Marv the presidential blue tie from his own collection?

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