'Awesome, baby, with a capital A!' Dick Vitale writes powerful tribute to Mike Krzyzewski for his final Duke home game

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DURHAM, N.C. — ESPN college basketball voice Dick Vitale established some of his most notable catchphrases while calling Duke vs. North Carolina games during his illustrious broadcasting career.

That's led to a meaningful friendship with Mike Krzyzewski, who is poised to coach his final home game at Cameron Indoor Stadium vs. the archrival Tar Heels on Saturday before a plethora of his former players.

Vitale, diagnosed with lymphoma and vocal cord dysplasia this past October, told USA TODAY Sports Krzyzewski has texted him encouraging words regularly. Vitale and Krzyzewski are both on the V Foundation board and have worked together in raising money to fight cancer to honor the late Jimmy Valvano, who coached N.C. State to the 1983 NCAA title. To honor Coach K's historic legacy, the 82-year-old Vitale wrote an open letter to the winningest coach in the sport.

"I'd simply say, coach, you have been Awesome, baby, with a Capital A," Vitale writes in a letter obtained by USA TODAY Sports, set to run during an ESPN segment Saturday.

"Your coaching record is proof of the solid gold hall of famer you are. But I know Mike the man as well. And man, are you special. ... As I have endured a six-month fight with several cancers, I have felt your caring ways. Your countless messages have listed my spirits like you can't even imagine. Yes, my friend, you are the GOAT as a coach. But you are also one of the best people I have ever met."

Dick Vitale with the Cameron Crazies before the Duke Blue Devils played the Michigan Wolverines at Cameron Indoor Stadium, in 2013.
Dick Vitale with the Cameron Crazies before the Duke Blue Devils played the Michigan Wolverines at Cameron Indoor Stadium, in 2013.

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Vitale returned to the broadcast sideline at the start of the 2021-22 season for five games but had to shut it down to focus on his health – chemotherapy treatments and a recent surgery on his vocal cords. Vitale has been under doctor’s orders since late February not to talk for a month. Without his signature voice, ESPN's Dan Shulman narrated the letter as part of the network's all-day Duke vs. North Carolina coverage honoring Coach K.

The letter reads in full:

Dear Mike,

It seems like yesterday, back in my second year at ESPN, your first at Duke when I wanted to find out what this young guy from West Point was all about. Even though you had a rough first few years – it was struggle city to put it mildly – after meeting you, I was so impressed and felt that you were going to get Duke back to the elite of the ACC.

As I reflect upon your achievements, I am completely in awe. Your coaching record is proof of the solid gold hall of famer you are. But I know Mike the man as well. And man, are you special. It's been an honor to be teammates on the board of the V Foundation – where we do our best to keep Jimmy V's dream alive. Now, as I have endured a six-month fight with several cancers, I have felt your caring ways. Your countless messages have lifted my spirits like you can't even imagine. Yes, my friend, you are the GOAT as a coach. But you are also one of the best people I have ever met.

Like millions of other fans, I feel it's been a privilege to watch you in action all these years. Every coach dreams of just one trip to the Final Four. You've been to 12 of them. In an era of fierce competition, you've collected more Ws than anyone. On top of that, you cut down the national championship nets five times. And, let's not forget about gold medals, too. Even with different players each season, the common thread was you. Whether at Duke or at the Olympics, you had some of the game's greatest superstars. And you always found a way to get them to buy in to your team-first approach. You've blended teams better than anyone who has ever graced the sidelines – according to my VBDI.

I'm lucky to have been in the building for so many of your biggest moments. I am praying that the journey that you and your general manager Mickie will now take includes health and happiness. You are a true legend. Yes, I'd simply say, coach, you have been Awesome, baby, with a Capital A!

God Bless,

Dick.

Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Dick Vitale writes powerful tribute to coach Mike Krzyzewski