Rick Barnes has a long list of people he texts prayers or devotionals to each morning.
The Tennessee basketball coach added ESPN commentator Dick Vitale to that list in recent months as Vitale has battled cancer.
“I think God is using him in a great way,” Barnes said Monday. “From the time I started texting him a prayer every day, I said to him just the other day, I said it’s been good for me. Because it has given me a chance to spend even more time alone with the Lord, (which is) what I need.”
Vitale shared on Twitter a prayer that Barnes sent him Sunday morning after Tennessee lost 52-51 at Texas on Saturday. It included Bible references and prayers for wisdom, strength and gratitude for “carrying Dick so he can continue to do the good you have called him to.”
Vitale is undergoing treatment for lymphoma and is also battling dysplasia in his vocal cords. Vitale called a handful of college basketball games earlier in the season before the inflammation in his vocal cords forced him to rest for the remainder of the season.
“I really have great admiration for Dick, because he’s a fighter right now,” Barnes said. “He is fighting a battle that he has fought for so many people. Like I said, he’s been an inspiration to a lot of people. Our conversations of late, they’ve impacted me as much as I think he would say they’ve impacted him.”
During Tennessee's game at Texas, Vitale shared the prayer routine between him and Barnes.
"His KINDNESS brings tears to my eyes when I read his daily text," Vitale said on Twitter on Saturday.
Vitale has spent decades in the fight to cure cancer. Vitale was close friends with Jimmy Valvano, the late North Carolina basketball coach who famously gave a speech at the ESPY's during his cancer battle. Vitale works closely with the V Foundation, which was started in Valvano's honor, and holds an annual gala to raise funds for pediatric cancer research.
"His involvement, what he’s done for cancer, it’s remarkable," Barnes said.
Vitale underwent treatment last year for melanoma and announced in August that he was cancer-free. In October, Vitale announced that he had been diagnosed with cancer for a second time. Vitale said then that tests showed he had lymphoma and that the treatment plan involved six months of chemotherapy.
Vitale said in October that medical experts have told him that there is a 90% cure rate. Vitale had planned to manage his work schedule around his chemotherapy schedule before his vocal cords required rest in December.
Mike Wilson covers University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @ByMikeWilson. If you enjoy Mike’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.
This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Why Rick Barnes started texting Dick Vitale during Vitale's cancer battle