Coach K Shook This Man's Hand Before Every Home Game For The Last 37 Years

December 26, 2017

coach K steve mitchell down syndrome

You may have never known his name, but Steve Mitchell sat behind Mike "Coach K" Krzyzewski in Duke University's Cameron Indoor Stadium for the last 37 years.

Steve was born with Down Syndrome on Sept. 5, 1954, and died on June 4, 2017 after a brief illness.

The story goes that in 1980 the only thing Steve wanted for Christmas was a Duke basketball ticket, not an easy score, but Steve's brother had a construction company and was hired to renovate Coach K's house. He asked him how one might find a ticket to buy and explained his brother's Christmas wish.

"He can sit behind me," Coach K told him.

The following season, Steve wrote him a letter saying, "Coach, I know we're going to have another great year. I was hoping that I could sit near you again."

Coach K wrote Steve back a handwritten letter saying that, "yes," he could.

Steve and Coach K exchanged nearly the same letters for 37 years and this is the first season that a ticket, reserved for one Steve Mitchell, isn't waiting at will call.

Steve would collect his ticket and make his way to his seat, a tradition that was life changing for his self-confidence, according to his family.

Coach K shook his hand before every game.

"Steve became a good friend, one who had some challenges. He was loved deeply by his family. It always felt good shaking his hand before games because I admired him and was proud of him," Coach K wrote in an email. "Steve never asked for anything. He just wanted be to down there to support us. I always felt like he had my back. That felt good."

Thank you, Coach K.

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