Czar’s Got Heart: CIC Celebrity Golf Classic

The PGA Championship is under way at Whistling Straits in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Tiger Woods has a great opportunity here to make a statement in order to secure a position on the 2010 Ryder Cup team. Currently tenth on the U.S. qualifying list, Woods may even be able to sneak into the top 8 and earn an automatic berth if he finishes high enough in this tournament, which is the last qualifying event for the Ryder Cup.

Fortunately I didn’t have as much riding on my performance at Monday’s Celebrity Golf Classic. Cleveland Indians Charities hosted the 19th annual tournament to benefit their community outreach efforts. We had a great group of people, and the idyllic conditions made for a terrific day of golfing at the Quail Hollow Country Club.

Among the Indians alumni who participated was MLB great Kenny Lofton, who was inducted into the Indians Hall of Fame during a pregame ceremony on Saturday. And former Indians manager Mike Hargrove was in the group right in front of me. He managed the Indians back when I was a coaching the Cavs and he’s been a great friend for many years now.

Professional Travel sponsored my team. President and CEO Robert Sturm had a dozen of his employees playing on two different teams. In fact, his other team wound up winning the tournament. One of those guys sunk a spectacular hole in one and went home with a brand new Mercedes Benz. I just narrowly missed the hole in one by about 80 yards.

In light of my latest adventures in golfing, looks like it may be time for me to go back to my swing coach and work on my technique. Or maybe Hargrove can help me out. He knocked the living day lights out of the golf ball. If Hargrove were still hitting baseballs like he hit the golf ball in the tournament, he’d still be playing in the Major League.

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.

In Union There Is Strength

In coaching we’re always preaching the theme of team. We try to get our players to come together as a team and play as one because in union there is strength. When a player is injured or in a time of need we ask his teammates to pick him up. There is power in team. There is hope in team. There is action in team.

Right now we need to come together as a team and help the people of Haiti. We’ve all seen reports on the tremendous tragedy they are enduring right now, only 600 miles off our shore. This tragedy is a challenge to us all. It affects us all. It has taken far too many of our teammates already and it’s threatening to take more.

The Haitian flag bears the inscription: “L’Union Fait la Force” which means “in union there is strength.”  Let’s pull together and help our teammates on the frontlines. Together we can make a difference. In union there is the strength to overcome.

In Philly tonight, Haitian born 76er Samuel Dalembert will present a check for $100,000 to the Haiti Earthquake Relief and has pledged to match any donations made by fans during the game. Both Dalembert and NBA Cares have partnered with Unicef to provide immediate aid to the estimated three million victims of the unfolding humanitarian crisis.

Alonzo Mourning traveled to the devastated capital of Port-au-Prince with Project Medishare to assist rescue workers and first responders. He and former teammate Dwyane Wade established the Athletes Relief Fund for Haiti. The White House Blog supports online contributions to the Red Cross – a quick $10 donation can also be made by texting “HAITI” to 90999. George W. Bush and Bill Clinton are heading up a new Haiti fundraising project as well.

Please give what you can to ensure that priority needs such as food, water, shelter and medical help arrive in time to save lives.

The Dalembert Foundation

The NBA Supports Unicef

Athletes Relief Fund for Haiti


Dalembert joined Game Time to talk about the situation back home and the work of the Samuel Dalembert Foundation. You can watch the interview here.