Almost exactly two months after Gordon Graham announced that he was resigning as coach
of the Harvard women’s tennis team effective at the beginning of July, the program has named his replacement.
Traci Green, the former leader of the women’s tennis program at Temple University, will take over the Crimson’s program beginning in July, Nichols Family Director of Athletics Bob Scalise announced on Friday. She will take the reins following the 17-year tenure of Graham, who led Harvard to nine Ivy League championships, including a streak of four consecutive conference titles that ended this season.
Green coached for three years at Temple, retooling a struggling Owls program that went just 4-15 the year before her arrival. During her second season, Green led Temple to its first winning season in six years, and this season, the Owls had a 16-4 overall mark and an 8-1 Atlantic 10 conference record. Temple’s season ended in the conference tournament championship match.
“I’m really excited,” rising sophomore Lena Litvak said of the hiring a day after the team was notified of the decision.
“We didn’t get a chance to spend as much time with her as we would have liked because it was during exam period when she came for interviews, but I had opportunity and so did the other girls to have about a 30-minute conversation with her, and she’s excited and motivated,” Litvak said. “She knows what she wants to get done, which is nice to have. She’s happy to be here, she really loves tennis, and she’s happy to have gotten the position.”
Green becomes the second African-American face among the Crimson’s 32 head coaching positions, both of whom were hired within the last two months. In April, former Michigan and Seton Hall coach Tommy Amaker was chosen
to lead the men’s basketball program just weeks after the Boston Globe criticized Harvard’s lack of coaching diversity.
But for Litvak, Green’s race pales in comparison to her other qualifications.
“I really don’t think that makes a difference,” Litvak said of Green’s minority status. “I’m excited about the knowledge she has of tennis, not that she’s a minority.”
After its unprecedented string of success during the last decade and a half under Graham, the Crimson was faced with a depleted roster and great inexperience in many areas this past year. Harvard began the spring season with just one returning starter and was forced to hold open tryouts for club team members just to be able to field a full team.
This showed in the form of seven straight losses to begin the year and a 4-15 mark at season’s end.
However, including recruits for the class of 2011, the Crimson will enter the fall with 11 players, making Green’s transition to the program a bit easier and taking the pressure off early recruiting efforts.
“Of course it’s important to recruit, but we’ll have a full team next year, which is nice,” Litvak said. “She seems to have known a lot of the players, even [high school] juniors who were looking at colleges. She was a coach before, so she understands the value of recruiting.”
Green, who wasn’t immediately available for comment, holds a 34-27 career mark, compared to the 239 career wins of Graham. He compiled 15 of those wins during a highly successful 2005-06 campaign in which the Crimson was ranked as high as No. 9 in the nation. In comparison, Temple’s highest ranking under Green was No. 85 in the country.
Still, in the aftermath of a rebuilding year, Litvak hopes that Green’s arrival will return Harvard to its conference dominance of years past.
“It’s going to be an exciting year,” Litvak said. “We’re going to have a full team and we have a new coach. It’s always a nice feeling to have a coach who wants to be on the court, who wants to train and make things better. Overall, it’s just going to be an exciting fall to come back to.” —Staff writer Malcom A. Glenn can be reached at email@example.com.