EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article appeared in The Post-Journal in March 1997 when Jamestown native Kirsten Green was a senior student manager for the Duke men’s basketball team. With Mike Krzyzewski coaching his final game at Cameron Indoor Stadium tonight, it was deemed appropriate to run the story again. Now the assistant director of athletics-special projects at Harvard University, Kirsten’s professional career in collegiate athletics also includes stops at Seton Hall University and the University of Michigan.
When you’re a high school senior, it is not easy to muster up the nerve to write a letter to a university you’re not even enrolled in yet and ask for a job.
On top of that, this wasn’t your average 10-hours-a-week, I-can’t-wait-until-it’s-over work-study job. On the contrary. The position Kirsten Green of Jamestown was inquiring about — at the repeated urging of her father, Larry — was that of manager of the Duke University men’s basketball team.
She figured to be one of hundreds wanting to secure such a position, so early correspondence was almost mandatory. But as a teenagers are known to do, she procrastinated.
Still, a familiar voice kept urging her to do so.
“All they can do is say ‘no,’” her dad kept telling her. “All they can do is say ‘no.’”
Fast-forward 3¢ years.
Kirsten is nearing the end of her fourth season with the Blue Devils — she landed the manager’s job shortly after arriving in Durham, North Carolina in the fall of 1993 — serving as one of two senior managers for one of the nation’s most visible and successful college basketball programs.
Aside from the obvious perks — seeing college basketball at its highest level, traveling, and rubbing elbows with the likes of Mike Krzyzewski, Tommy Amaker and Trajan Langdon — Kirsten found more in the friendly confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium than just championship banners and retired jerseys.
She found an extended family.
At Krzyzewski’s insistence, everyone involved with the basketball program is considered equal — coaches, players and staff. In Coach K’s eyes, Kirsten is as important to the success of the Blue Devils as Langdon is. They just have different job descriptions.
“My friend will tease me about being a ‘towel girl.’ I guess I should stand up for myself and say I’m a ‘beverage technician,’ Kirsten said with a laugh.
But there’s more to her job description than meets the eye. Her duties include keeping statistics during games and practices, helping with scouting reports and videotaping, recruiting correspondence, and greeting opposing teams when they arrive on campus.
“When we have our (pregame) meal, Coach K will ask who had the visitor’s locker room and ask how they seemed and how was their mood,” Kirsten said. “Whatever I say, that’s what he’s going to go with. He has an amazing ability to trust the people around him.”
Those kinds of feelings will tie Kirsten to Coach K, Amaker and the university for the rest of her life.
And it’s probably not a reach to suggest that the feelings they all have for each other go beyond what happens on the basketball court.
In fact, when Krzyzewski learned of the death of Kirsten’s mother, Tina, last September, he called and expressed his condolences over the phone. Meanwhile, the Greens received flowers from the “Duke Basketball Family” and also accepted several phone calls from its staff. Upon her return to school in October, she received a sympathy card signed by all the players.
“Those acts of kindness have earned the Blue Devils high marks from Larry.
“When I went down to Duke in November, I told Coach K, ‘Thank you so much for taking care of my daughter. I don’t worry about her,’” he said. “And he said. ‘She does such a good job. She’s family.’”
Of course, Krzyzewski knew first-hand what it was like to lose a parent as his mother passed away last year, too.
“While my mom was sick, he would call me into the office and ask how she was doing and asked if there was anything he could do,” Kirsten recalled. “It’s genuine concern. It’s just amazing with all the things he has to do in his day, he’d take the time to worry about someone else.”
But that’s just the way things work at Duke, which is reassuring news to her dad.
“I don’t really worry about Kirsten at all,” said Larry, whose younger daughter, Caroline, is a freshman at North Carolina. “I know she’s been taken care of as if I was there. That epitomizes the whole program, (Coach K) takes as much interest in your kid as you would.”
The Blue Devils, who meet Providence today in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, hope to make another run at a national championship. After that, Kirsten’s career at Duke will be over and she will begin looking for work in sports administration.
With Coach K as one of her references, she shouldn’t have much trouble finding a job of her liking.
“He told me I need to keep him informed and I needed to let him know what he can do to help me,” Kirsten said.
Spoken like a true “dad.”