by Scott Kindberg
March 16, 1997
Green Finds Second Family At Duke
She figured to be one of hundreds wanting to secure such a position, so early correspondence was almost mandatory. But as 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”
And, as is usually the case father knew best.
Fast forward 3 1/2 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 N.C 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 then 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 friends 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 is much more to her job than meets the eye. Her duties include keeping statistics during games and practices, helping with scouting reports and video-taping, 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 more 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 Green.
“When I went down to Duke in November. I told Coach K. ‘Thank you for 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 Larry Green.
“I don’t really worry about Kirsten at all,” said Green, whose younger daughter, Caroline, is a freshmen 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 needed 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.”