Happy Halloween!

I auditioned a handful of  Halloween costumes this year. Which one do you like best?

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On the Road with Mike

Rock, rhythm and blues super star Zucchero (which means sugar in Italian) gave a special performance at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame In Cleveland, Ohio. Having grown up idolizing many of the pioneers commemorated in the museum, it was especially meaningful for Zucchero to play at the monument to the music that he loves. Only 350 tickets were released for sale, and then they let another 150 people come in and stand along the walkways looking down on the stage.

Zucchero, whose real name is Adelmo Fornaciari, is on tour promoting his new album Chocabeck. The singer-songwriter/guitarist/keyboardist is not as well known here in the U.S. as he is in Europe, but he should be. Zucchero is one of the top Italian recording artists worldwide and has sold 40 million records over the last three decades.

A cross between Bruce Springsteen, Joe Cocker, Billy Joel, John Bon Jovi and Sting, the international legend has collaborated with these and so many other greats including Miles Davis, John Lee Hooker, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Stewart Copeland, Sheryl Crow, Macy Gray and Bono. Zucchero was extremely close with Luciano Pavarotti and is also credited with discovering Andrea Bocelli.

Beloved by the people in his industry and fans alike, Zucchero lives to perform. I first saw him play at the landmark Agora Theatre a few years back, so I knew I was in for a treat. As expected, Zucchero was nonstop entertainment. He went for about an hour and forty-five minutes. He kept the show moving and had his fans on their feet dancing the whole night.

Afterwards, Zucchero invited a group of our friends to join him for a quick dinner at Restaurant Dante in Tremont before hitting the road to New York City for a show at the Beacon Theater. We were very fortunate that he asked us to sit with him at his table. He told us about his background and how he finally caught a break when somebody who trusted him gave him a shot even though his style was unusual for an Italian singer. His is a great story, and Zucchero is an incredible person.

On the Road with Mike

The first barrel of vino I produced at Bacchus a few years ago turned out so great that I decided to give the ancient art of winemaking another shot. This time I partnered with my good friend George Zampelli, whom I met 18 years ago when I first moved to Cleveland to coach the Cavaliers.

George and I decided to produce two blends: an 80/20 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot and a 70/30 Amador Sangiovese/Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. We named our red collaboration Fratelli, a fusion our surnames Fratello and Zampelli, which means brothers in Italian.

After aging both batches in oak for two years, George and I returned to Bacchus to bottle the wine with some friends this summer. It took us hours to label and cork all 500 bottles, but we had a lot of fun sampling the fermented fruit of our labor while we worked.

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Czar’s Got Heart: 2011 Jimmy V New Jersey Dinner

A couple weeks ago I attended the inaugural Jimmy V New Jersey Dinner at The Brownstone in Paterson, New Jersey. Hosted by ESPN’s Bob Ley, we paid tribute to North Jersey native Dick Vitale – a longtime champion of Jim Valvano’s quest to eradicate cancer. Almost 400 people participated in the fundraiser, including special guest Notre Dame Basketball Coach Mike Brey.

Towards the end of the dinner Dick got up to talk about why he’s been so relentless in his pursuit of a cure for cancer. As always Dick delivered an impassioned and moving speech, explaining that he made a promise to his close friend Jimmy Valvano to continue to fight for cancer research after Jimmy’s death.

This was a great opportunity to honor an exceptional person who has dedicated an incredible amount of time, effort and work to help raise money throughout the country for The V Foundation for Cancer Research. It was a terrific evening, and I enjoyed seeing a lot of old friends and familiar faces from the North Jersey area among those who helped researchers get one step closer to finding a cure by coming out to support Dick and the V Foundation. Hopefully next year’s dinner will be even bigger and better.

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Photos courtesy of Richard Formica via The V Foundation for Cancer Research

Please CLICK HERE if you would like to make an online donation. The V Foundation awards 100% of all donations directly to cancer research and related programs and has awarded nearly $80 million to more than 100 facilities nationwide.

Around the League: 2011 WNBA Finals

Normally NBA teams would be getting ready for their opening exhibition games, but due to the lockout all 114 pre-season games were cancelled on Tuesday.

Fortunately the Minnesota Lynx and the Atlanta Dream have given us an opportunity to enjoy some outstanding basketball as the 2011 WNBA Finals got underway this week.

We’ve seen incredible individual performances from both teams so far in this best of five series. Rebekkah Brunson and Seimone Augustus combined for 48 points to lead the Lynx to an 88-74 victory over the Dream in Game 1. Atlanta fell short again in Game 2, 101-95, despite a dominant 38-point performance from Angel McCoughtry.

Minnesota’s roster boasts four All-Stars including WNBA Rookie of the Year forward Maya Moore. After winning two NCAA titles playing under Coach Geno Auriemma at the University of Connecticut, Moore is back in familiar championship-series territory and in search of her first WNBA title.

For the second year in a row the Atlanta Dream find themselves down 2-0 in the finals. Last time around the Dream were swept by Seattle, but they’re hoping this season they will become the first team in WNBA history to bounce back from a 2-0 deficit to win the WNBA title. The Atlanta Dream return home to host the Minnesota Lynx in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals. Live coverage begins at 8:00 PM EST on ESPN 2.