Hall of Fame broadcaster Dick Vitale began calling Duke Blue Devils men’s basketball games for ESPN during the 1980-81 college basketball season, and was on the call for dozens of Duke television shows over the next 42 years. Vitale has also maintained a close personal friendship with Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski, who will retire at the end of the 2021-22 season. On the occasion of Coach K’s final home game at the Cameron Indoor Stadium, Vitale wrote a letter to pay tribute to Krzyzewski.
wow! It seems like yesterday in my second year at ESPN, your first at Duke, when I wanted to find out what this young man from West Point was like. Even though you had a tough first few years – it was STRUGGLE CITY to put it mildly – after meeting you I was so impressed and felt you were going to bring Duke back to the ACC elite. .
Reflecting on your accomplishments, I am completely in awe. Every coach dreams of a trip to the Final Four. You’ve been to 12 of them. Let’s face it – we all expected you’re here, year after year. In a time of fierce competition, you’ve collected more W than anyone. On top of that, you’ve cut the national championship nets five times. And let’s not forget the Olympic gold medals.
Even with different players each season, the common thread was YOU. Talk about a legacy of greatness.
Whether at Duke or the Olympics, you’ve had some of the biggest superstars in the game and you’ve always found a way to get them to buy into your team approach. According to my VBDI (Vitale Bald Dome Index), you mixed teams better than anyone who has ever graced the sidelines.
Your coaching record is proof of the Solid Gold Hall of Famer you are. But I know Mike “The Man” and Man, YOU are special. When planning my first gala 17 years ago, I called and said, “Coach, I want to raise $1 million for kids fighting cancer, can we honor you for the benefit of V Foundation? Without hesitation you said “Dick, just give me the date.” We raised over a million dollars that year and we’ve been rolling ever since.
It’s been an honor to be teammates on the V Foundation Board, where we do our best to keep Jimmy V’s dream alive. I’ll never forget the night of the first ESPYs when only we knew how sick Jimmy was and how he asked us for one thing – “Get me on stage,” he said. He gave this historic speech because his message, “DON’T GIVE UP – DON’T GIVE UP!” inspired so many, including me, to fight this dreaded disease.
Now, as I endured a six month battle with several cancers, I felt your care. Your countless messages have lifted my spirits like you can’t even imagine. Yes, my friend, you are the GOAT as a trainer, but you are also one of the the best people that I have never met. I pray that the journey you and your “CEO” Mickie are on now includes health and happiness.
Like millions of other fans, I think it’s been a privilege to see you in action all these years. I’m lucky to have been in the building for many of your greatest moments. You are a true legend. Yes, in “Vitalese”, I would simply say: You were AN AWESOME BABY, with a capital A!
God protects you,
The 17th Annual Dick Vitale Gala, benefiting the V Foundation, will be held May 6, 2022 at The Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota, Florida. For more information, visit dickvitaleonline.com.