Meet The Man Behind Coach K
Posted April 2, 2006 12:59 p.m. EDT
DURHAM, N.C. — Out of the thousands of fans who fill Cameron Indoor Stadium for a Duke Blue Devils men's basketball game, Steve Mitchell probably has the best seat in the house.
Although not as colorful, he's almost as conspicuous as the "Cameron Crazies," because he sits right behind the Duke bench -- a perfect view of all the action -- at the invitation of Coach Mike Krzyzewski.
"Everybody at Cameron knows Steve," says Mitchell's cousin, Frances. "Nobody knows his name, but everybody knows he's Coach K's buddy."
So, just how did Mitchell come to be Coach K's buddy?
About 20 years ago, Mitchell's family, which is in the construction business, helped with renovations to Cameron, which included putting in the old hardwood floor. Krzyzewski befriended the family -- and the rest is history.
"I can't find the words to say how much it's meant to Steve, (and) in turn, how much it's mean to us," said Mitchell's sister, Candace Black.
Since then, Mitchell has seen up-close the best Duke basketball has to offer. He's also seen moments that scared him, like when Krzyzewski became dizzy briefly last year, and fell on the court right in front of him.
Mitchell, now 54, knows what it's like to see someone he cares about in trouble. In 1981, he saved his sister's life while they were swimming. Black had a seizure and likely would have drowned had her brother not called for help.
Mitchell's old room is a museum of sorts to his hero and his teams, with pictures and autographs. He even has an original 1980 Atlantic Coast Conference championship banner.
He used to spend hours making posters filled with articles on his favorite players. Now, however, he doesn't do that much any more. Instead, he writes letters, including one to Krzyzewski.
"Thank you for letting me sit near you. ... " the letter reads. "You are a very special friend to me."