The Post-Journal

Green Has Always Been Part Of The ‘A’ Team

Kirsten Green
Kirsten Green

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article appeared in the Feb. 13, 2000 edition of The Post-Journal, chronicling the early professional successes of Jamestown native Kirsten Green. Since then, she has reached new heights and is now the assistant athletic director at Harvard University.

Kirsten Green made a habit of regularly visiting her great-grandparents, who lived at the Lutheran Retirement Home in Jamestown.

But before she arrived there, she would always make sure she had some candy to give to them.

During one particular visit, Kirsten struck up a conversation with a lady in a wheelchair , who was also a resident there, and asked her if she’d like a piece.

The woman nodded.

Jamestown native Kirsten Green, far left, with the Harvard men’s basketball team and staff.
Jamestown native Kirsten Green, far left, is seen with the Harvard men’s basketball team and staff during the 2013-14 season. Green now serves as the assistant director of athletics at the university. Photo courtesy of Harvard Athletic Communications.

Kirsten handed her the candy and, upon seeing the elderly woman struggle to unwrap it, she quickly offered to help.

“Can I do that for you? Kirsten inquired.

Kirsten, ever the precocious one, was all of 3 years old.

“That’s probably the most proud that I’ve been of her,” recalled her father, Larry. “She meets people very easily.”

Fast forward 21 years.

Through piano lessons, school activities, scholastic honors and participating in three varsity sports at Jamestown High School; through 3.5 years at Duke, a trip to the Final Four as a team manager for Coach Mike Krzyzewski and a degree in mathematics; and through friendships forged from Jamestown to Durham, North Carolina and points in between, Kirsten, by all accounts has always been willing to reach out to others, just like she did to that woman in the nursing home more than two decades ago

That sensitivity, combined with supreme intelligence and attention to detail, has landed her a pretty good first job.

At an age when most people are just getting their feet wet in their chosen career, Kirsten, 24, has thrown herself headfirst into her work as director of basketball operations for the Seton Hall men’s basketball program in South Orange, New Jersey.

Already in her third season with the Pirates, Kirsten is Coach Tommy Amaker’s hand-picked choice to run the Pirates’ basketball office, demonstrating the people skills, the organizational ability and the smarts to become one of the few women in the country to hold such a position

“I really feel lucky working for somebody like Tommy with his stature,” said Kirsten, who was a manager at Duke when Amaker was an assistant coach there. “It’s a credit to him that he would give the position to a female because it’s not something 99 percent of the programs are doing. I’m forever in his debt for the opportunity he’s given me, and continues to give me.”

Larry Green, who taught math at JHS for 34 years, recalled the reaction Kirsten got when Amaker introduced her to former Georgetown coach John Thompson.

“When Tommy introduced her to John Thompson as his director of basketball operations, he was kind of stunned. There was silence. It wasn’t what he expected.”

Larry Green smiled at the thought.

“I taught for 34 years and my kid has already done more in three years than I did in 34.”

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Kirsten is up to her ears in work.

The phones are ringing off the hook.

Well-wishers stop by to offer their congratulations.

Old college friends check in, sending their best wishes.

“It’s been crazy,” Kirsten said by telephone. “But it’s definitely a great craziness.”

She asks if the caller can hold while she takes yet another call.

“Sorry,” she said upon her return to the line.

Yet, despite the chaos swirling around her, Kirsten is in her element. The Pirates, a struggling program just three years ago, are on the road to recovery under Amaker, the former Duke All-American and one of the nation’s hottest young coaches.

With wins this week over Syracuse at the Carrier Dome; at arch-rival Rutgers; and against Boston College, the Pirates are 18-4 overall and 10-2 in the Big East, turning the basketball office into the New Jersey version of Grand Central Station.

ESPN has visited; members of the Board of Regents have called; and friends from Duke, thrilled for Amaker, who is easily one of the nicest guys in the sport, want a few minutes of his time. Maybe that’s why Kirsten is running on adrenaline. In fact, the morning after the Pirates’ overtime win against the Scarlet Knights, she came to work after not getting much sleep.

“Wednesday and Monday have been two of our bigger wins since we’ve been here,” Kirsten said.

So, in addition to trying to catch up on work left over from the day before, she spent Wednesday (deep breath here): reading and clipping articles about the victory out of five newspapers and sending them to recruits; handling Amaker’s correspondence; taking some of Amaker’s calls while he was out of the office; and working with the sports information director to help weed through all the media’s interview requests.

Twelve-hour work days are the rule rather than the exception.

“There’s never a down day,” Kirsten said. “It’s fun, exciting. … Our secretary came in the other day and said she was going to be leaving and wondered if she should shut the door. When she left, I went in and said to Tommy, ‘How did it get to be 5 o’clock?’ You just get going. I feel we’ve been on a roll. Not just the winning, but, being in our third year, you’re in rhythm. You know what you want to accomplish. It’s an exciting time around here.”

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Growing up Kirsten and her younger sister, Caroline, took piano lessons at the behest of their mother, Tina, who passed away in 1996.

“My mom always said we had to have an activity. We couldn’t just sit and watch TV,” Kirsten recalled with a laugh.

But by the time she reached seventh grade at Jefferson School she realized that she’d tickled enough of the ivories. Basketball was now her activity of choice.

Larry Brickley, her seventh-grade coach, remembers Kirsten as a quick-study, a young lady who picked up the mental part of the game easily. He recently saw Kirsten when Seton Hall played at Pittsburgh.

“Is she a wonderful young lady? Without a doubt,” Brickley said.

Later, Kirsten played varsity hoops, tennis and softball at JHS, but never really considered a career in sports management. Law school was on her career horizon.

Then Larry Green suggested, upon his daughter’s acceptance at Duke, that she write the school to see about the availability of landing a manager’s job with the basketball team.

“All they can do is say no,” he said.

The rest is history.

“When she went down there, she was in a basketball class that Pete Gaudet (a former Duke assistant coach) was teaching,” Larry Green said. “During one of the classes, she got whacked in the mouth and started bleeding. I think (that accident) is why she got the basketball (manager’s) job. When it came time to do the interviews, the girl in the office said, ‘You’re the one Pete told us about.'”

And, in four years as a manager in Durham, she left her mark, one that Amaker couldn’t ignore when he took the job at Seton Hall.

In fact, Tom Rogers, a retired Army colonel, a former assistant coach to Krzyzewski and a special assistant to the Duke athletic director, had a chat with Amaker after he later interviewed for the Seton Hall job.

“I told him, ‘If you get this job, one person you really want to assist you is Kirsten, because she loves basketball and she loves what she’s doing. She’s so good, she’s loyal and she’ll do a great job,” said Rogers, known affectionately as the ‘Colonel,” from his Pinehurst, North Carolina home earlier this week. “And, by George, he picked her.”

Noted Amaker: “I just knew that if I ever had a chance to get a head coaching job, I wanted to see if she’d like to come along.”

Let’s just say it took Kristen less than a three-second violation to accept the job offer.

“She’s extremely thorough and she’s very, very bright,” said Amaker, 34. “It goes without saying that she’s very sharp and she presents herself so well. Everybody raves about her around here. She runs our office, she’s a very visible person for our program and her personality is infectious. People are drawn to her.”

Give her a responsibility and she takes care of it. Or, should we say, takes charge.

Like the time she was working at Chautauqua Institution the summer between her junior and senior years at JHS. The year was 1992, which was in the heat of the presidential election campaign. Bill Clinton and Al Gore made a stop on the grounds. Larry Green expected that his daughter would be handing out campaign literature. Much to his surprise, Kirsten was, in fact, delivering orders to others via a walkie-talkie. And by the end of the soon-to-be-President’s stay, she was shaking his hand.

“Katie Couric (of NBC-TV) was trying to get to (Clinton and Gore) as they got on the bus,” Larry Green recalled, “but a lady pushed her out of the way to introduce Kirsten to Clinton.”

Some people are just born with the intangibles, that undefinable “something” that separates them from their peers.

“She’s right at the top of my list,” Rogers said. “She just did some unbelievable things (while at Duke). She’s just so competent.”

Dwight Willson, a long-time friend of the Greens, who taught history at JHS for 27 years, said Kirsten “represented two percent of the students I used to have. Those are the kids that just rise above, transcend whatever situation they’re in and achieve, regardless of the situation.

“She could be a PR person for a corporation and be making six figures,” Willson added. “She’s so gregarious, has that wonderful smile, she’s just so competent and well-organized.”

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In the midst of the Pirates’ success on the court, they’ve also had to deal with the tragedy of last month’s dormitory fire which left three students dead. Three of the team managers lived in that dorm and one of them suffered a shattered ankle and a broken wrist after jumping out of a fourth-floor window.

“It was such a tragic thing for our whole campus,” Kirsten said. “For about a week, it just paralyzed us.”

But, in an almost cathartic way, the basketball team has been able to rally the students and, at least temporarily, take some of the hurt away from that awful night.

“We told our guys that if somehow we can play a very, very small role in the healing process wouldn’t that be nice?” Amaker said.

So, imagine, if you will, the excitement the Pirates felt on their charter flight home after knocking off Syracuse. Kirsten and assistant coach Chris Collins, a former Duke player, both agreed that the win was as exciting as any they experienced while in Durham.

“For us to feel that excited, we were just so proud of our players,” Kirsten said. “We came in on Tuesday and our voice mail boxes were full, but we still had Wednesday night’s game to play. Emotionally, friends of the program are much more excited about our future and the steps we’ve taken, but internally, you understand how fragile it really is.”

So what did the Pirates go out and do the next night?

They beat neighboring Rutgers in overtime.

Noted Amaker: “We have a little saying within our team and it goes like this: ‘Imagine what you can accomplish if no one cares who gets the credit.'”

It’s a phrase that applies not only to the players, but to everyone associated with the program. Amaker said that Kirsten lives by that motto.

“She really takes a lot of pride in making other people happy,” he said. “She’s done so much for me. I wouldn’t know where to start or finish if she wasn’t here.”

Interesting, isn’t it?

Amaker, the former Blue Devil All-American point guard and recognized as the nation’s best defensive player in 1987, took absolute charge of his other four teammates on the floor when he was playing But now, even though he’s “the man” around South Orange, he’s not afraid to delegate.

“He’s wonderful at delegating authority and letting you go out and do it,” Kirsten said of her boss. “He doesn’t look over your shoulder. He trusts you will do it the right way.”

Of course, Kirsten always does.

“She is just No. 1 in my book,” Rogers said.

Who’s going to argue with a colonel, anyway?

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