His broadcasting philosophy is one that any Philadelphia fan of any sport can relate to: "Broadcasting to me is like the two of us sitting in a living room watching the game and talking about it, without the cursing."
It is part of the reason Whitey Rigsby has become as recognizable a face in Villanova basketball lore as Rollie Massimino, Jay Wright and anyone else who has ever been a part of it.
Saturday, for the second time in his career, Rigsby will be calling a national semifinal game that features his beloved Wildcats, who face North Carolina (CBS3, approximately 8:40 p.m.).
The love affair between the kid from New York and the Main Line started after his stellar career at Bishop Molloy High School, when he was the first recruit of new coach Massimino in 1974.
"It had come down to three schools for me: Duke, Holy Cross and Villanova," said Rigsby. "[Then-Duke coach] Bill Foster recruited me and Butch Lee. Butch was considered the best guard to come out of the New York Public League, and I was considered the best in the Catholic League. But Butch went to Marquette and I went to Villanova. Tom Brennan, who was an assistant at 'Nova and later coached at Vermont, was instrumental in getting me to Villanova. I loved that guy. And, I wanted to be near a city not named New York and also wanted to go to a school where basketball was the most important sport. It was the perfect fit."
And still is. Rigsby himself has trouble believing this is his 29th year behind the mike as an analyst. He also became a full-time employee at the university in 2000 when he was named director of development for athletics of the V Club, which provides financial resources for the school's athletic departments.
"When I got done playing at Villanova, I played in the CBA, and I hated it," he recalled. "You only played on Fridays and Sundays and I was the type of player who needed to play all the time to stay in shape. So it didn't work. Then, I became an assistant coach at Drexel under Eddie Burke. And I hated it as much as I hated playing in the CBA. I had been hanging around the Fieldhouse a lot and was asked if I wanted to do some radio. Back then, you needed to be standing on a corner in Aston with an umbrella in your hand in order to hear us, but I loved it.
"I was part of a three-man broadcast team, but wasn't making any money doing it. [Wife] Becky and I started having all these kids and I was spending a lot of time around basketball. I had to make a decision. I was told if I held on for 1 more year, they'd make me a full-timer. Marc Zumoff then moved on and it worked out."
While pursuing his broadcasting job, Rigsby was a manufacturing rep for John F. Scanlon in West Philadelphia. He held that job until 2000, when he started working for the V Club.
Whitey and Becky, also a 'Nova grad, were introduced by legendary trainer Jake Nevin. They have seven children, three of whom have graduated from Villanova and two more still attending. Their youngest, John, is just 11, but has been a ball boy for the Wildcats for 5 years. It's a family affair for the Rigsbys.
"There have been many coaches and many players come through since I've been here," Rigsby said. "They all have different personalities, but they all have the same goals, and that is to be involved in a good program. Sure, there have been ups and downs as far as wins and losses, but this is the kind of program I want to be a part of. It produces good people. I'm proud to be a part of it."
Since Saturday's win over Pittsburgh, Rigsby has been flooded with calls from friends looking for tickets. He laughs when talking about it. It is, after all, a labor of love for him. So what of Saturday's matchup with those heralded Tar Heels?
"I think they need to have Ty Lawson go east-west, not due north all the time," he said. "You can't let him get a head of steam up. You have to rebound, on the offensive end in particular. That might be a bit of an Achilles' heel for them.
"If North Carolina plays their best, no one is beating them. But that's why you play the game. That 1985 team caught lightning in a bottle. And this team has gotten better all season. We'll see."
Rigsby will be courtside Saturday calling the game in Detroit, with one of the best of the 70,000 seats at Ford Field.
And it's a pretty good bet there's nowhere else he would rather be. *