Coach Mike Krzyzewski , or "Coach K", has been a part of the college basketball world for 42 years. With an impressive record of 1202-368, he is one of the most winning coaches in the world. He led Duke University to 15 AAC championshiops, and Coach K is loved and respected by millions.
I am not writing today's post to offer congratulations on his recent retirement, nor to congratulate him on a job well done, although both are in order. I am writing to tell my readers about a kindness from Coach K that endured for years, and changed a man's life. Coach K set an example of acceptance and good will that everyone should follow.
The man is the late Steve Mitchell, a man with Down's, who sat behind Coach K for 37 years, from the 1980-81 season until his passing in June, 2017.
When Coach K was having some renovations done to his home, he met the Mitchell family and Steve. The only present Steve wanted for Christmas in 1980 was a ticket to a Dukes game. Coach K made that happen, again and again, for the next 37 years. Steve Mitchell and his pregame handshake with Coach K became a regular part of each game at Cameron Indoor Stadium. What a long and beautiful friendship the two men enjoyed!
I taught high school for 37 years and the Guidance Department put most of the district's students with special needs into my English and Theater classes. I never minded - these students taught me far more than I ever taught them. I think Coach K may think the same thing about his friendship with Steve Mitchell; although both benefitted from the friendship, I feel sure that Coach K is richer because of knowing Steve.
I saw this letter below to Coach K on Facebook. It is a post from November of 2020, from a mother who is a parent of a child with special needs. She recognizes the difference Coach K made for Steve Mitchell as she thinks about her own child. It is a heartfelt and beautiful letter, reminding the reader that all people with special needs just want to be accepted as "normal", whatever that is.
Thank you, Coach K, for the kindness you have bestowed upon those who can never pay you back. You are not just a winning coach, you are a fine man.
Here is a link to a nice story about Steve Mitchell and Coach K.
To read more about Coach K's kindess, please click on the link below. It also features a great picture of the pre-game handshake between Steven and Coach K.
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