As some of you may know, my father — Bob Vetrone Sr. (aka Buck The Bartender) — was a long-time sportswriter, broadcaster and publicist in this city before he passed away in March, 2005. He spent most of the last two decades of his life working at La Salle, mostly with the men's basketball team.

Among his closest friends there was Joe Mihalich, who was a long-time assistant to both Lefty Ervin and Speedy Morris. (And if that doesn't get you one foot in heaven, nothing will!)

Mihalich is now in his second year as the head men's coach at Hofstra University, where my daughter Annie — Buck's granddaughter — is a freshman, having fallen in love with the school since she first set foot on the campus for a visit last March.

(By the way, my older daughter Katie is a sophomore at The College of New Jersey, which has nothing to do with this other than I am not sure she has bought my Christmas gift yet, so I don't want to not mention her .)

Annie has touched base with coach Mihalich, who was very excited to hear from his friend's granddaughter and suggested she stop by his office some day or come to a game and say "hello." (I told her to pop her head in during the first timeout of the second half.)

We bring all this up now because La Salle is on Long Island on Tuesday to play at Hofstra for the first time in 10 seasons ... and although school is out and Annie is home for the holidays, we feel like our family is there in spirit for one other reason ...

Tuesday would have been my father's 89th birthday.

So, Happy Birthday, Dad ... Merry Christmas, Joe ... and Happy Holidays to all those involved in what never ceases to be a very close-knit Philadelphia sports community.

And as I always say, when God winks, be sure to wink back.