by Scott Kindberg
March 18, 2019
From Duke To Harvard
Kirsten Green’s resume is pretty impressive. Since graduating from Jamestown High School more than 25 years ago, her journey has taken her to Duke University, Seton Hall University, the University of Michigan and Harvard University; and, since 2015, she has served as the assistant director of athletics at the Ivy League school.
What does her current job description entail?
Well, according to her biography on the Harvard website, Green “works with the director of athletics and the athletics administration in a broad role, with responsibility in the area of internal communication, organization, alumni relations and program management, among others.”
Heady responsibilities, considering the department is vast, and features 42 sports, the most in the NCAA. What’s ironic, however, is that Green’s climb to the upper rung of the Crimson athletic administrative ladder — not to mention her journey to get there — may never have happened if she hadn’t taken the advice of her father, Larry, in the months leading up to her freshman year at Duke.
With a figurative nudge from her dad, Green grudgingly composed a letter in the summer of 1993, inquiring about a job with the Blue Devils basketball team and then sent it to Coach Mike Krzyzewski.
“I didn’t know any better,” Green said.
Larry apparently did.
Eventually, Green received notification from Coach K’s assistant, informing her that she could interview for a manager’s job upon arrival on campus that fall.
It turned out to be a transforming opportunity, because not only was she a manager for four years in Durham, but her work also drew the attention of the right people, ultimately propelling her on the fast track in collegiate athletics.
In her time as an undergraduate at Duke, Green was witness to the Blue Devils’ run to the 1994 NCAA championship game, their 1997 Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season championship and watched and learned from arguably the greatest coach in the history of the game.
“We were treated with incredible respect as managers,” Green said. “Coach K and his family made us all feel so welcome. … We were part of the program, and a valuable part of it. Coach felt that way and he made sure that everybody felt that way.”
Green recalled that each year, upon the completion of Krzyzewski’s annual clinic, he would tell the team the next day that he received as many compliments about his managers from the hundreds of coaches who were in attendance as he did about his players.
That relationship, Green maintains, went beyond shagging basketballs, wiping down the Cameron Indoor Stadium court or entering stats into a computer.
“That was such a gift for me being part of the program,” Green said. “I really got to know Coach and his family as people. Obviously, the first day you walk in there, you feel like you’re looking at Mount Rushmore, because he’s the greatest basketball coach of all time, but then you get to know him as a person and his family, he’s just everything he appears to be.”
That became especially apparent in September 1996 when Green’s mother passed away.
“I was home in Jamestown for the funeral. We had the funeral, and my cousins were in town and staying at the Holiday Inn. I was down there and my dad had gone home.”
Later that day, Larry received a phone call.
It was from Krzyzewski.
“He called the house to check on me, and my dad told him I was at the Holiday Inn downtown,” Green said. “Coach called the Holiday Inn, and a person (came up to me) and said, ‘Are you Kirsten Green?’ I said yes and she said, ‘Coach K is on the phone for you.’
“It’s one of the things you never forget.”
Fast-forward more than a quarter century.
Harvard didn’t make the NCAA men’s basketball tournament field that was unveiled Sunday – the Crimson lost to Yale in the Ivy League championship game earlier in the day — but Green has had plenty of March Madness experience since her days at Duke.
In fact, Green’s professional career began under Tommy Amaker. A former Duke player and assistant under Coach K, Amaker eventually took over the Seton Hall job in 1997 and brought Green with him to serve as his operations director with the Pirates. While at the New Jersey school, Green saw them advance to the postseason all four years while making a trip to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2000.
In 2001, Amaker was named the head coach at Michigan, and Green joined him in Ann Arbor, overseeing the administrative operations, and also serving as a team liaison within several areas of the athletic department and university. Highlighting Green’s six-year stay were the Wolverines’ 2004 NIT Championship and three 20-win seasons in her six years on staff.
And when Amaker became the Harvard coach in 2007, Green was on the move again, showing her versatility by serving as the program liaison with various areas of the department and university, including alumni, Friends of Harvard Basketball, media relations, marketing, ticketing and athletics administration. During that tenure, the Crimson enjoyed an unprecedented success in the form of six consecutive 20-win seasons, five consecutive Ivy League championships and four straight trips to the NCAA tournament. The Crimson also captured the inaugural Battle 4 Atlantis in 2011, and won the 2013 Great Alaska Shootout.
By 2015 — and armed with her masters of liberal arts degree in general management from Harvard — Green began her tenure as assistant director of athletics after spending her career in men’s basketball administration and serving the previous eight years as the director of men’s basketball operations for the Crimson. In her current position, Green works with the director of athletics and the athletics administration in a broad role, with responsibility in the areas of internal communication, organization, alumni relations, and program management among others.
And just think?
All it took was one letter addressed to a man who spells his last name K-R-Z-Y-Z-E-W-S-K-I.
The moral of this story?
Father knows best.