On most days, Tommy Amaker travels from his home in Newton to Harvard’s Lavietes Pavilion, where he works from his office.
But once a month, the fourth-year Harvard men’s basketball coach adds a different element to his routine.
On these days, Amaker pays a visit to Harvard Square restaurant Henrietta’s Table. It is there that Amaker meets with nearly a dozen predominately African-American scholars, doctors, and businessmen from the Boston area for a monthly breakfast that provides an opportunity for the group to share in conversation, laughter, and good-natured trash talking.
“We get there, we eat, we solve the world’s problems, and then we go back out in the world,” Amaker explains with a laugh.
The breakfasts, which began in 2007 when Amaker first arrived at Harvard, offer Amaker and the other attendees a chance to stay connected to the community, develop friendships, and learn from others.
Participants include Harvard Law School professors Charles J. Ogletree Jr. and Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., journalist Howard Manly, surgeon Augustus White III, former Harvard Business School dean John McArthur, and local business owner Richard Taylor, among others. While the diverse group spends a large share of each breakfast discussing politics, current events, and swapping stories, sports is a regular conversation topic.
With the members supporting a variety of different professional teams, lively debates often ensue.
“I never leave there without having laughed heartily,” says Sullivan, who fondly recalls one conversation when attendees boasted of their past athletic triumphs. “It’s as much fun as we tend to be able to get these days.”
While today the group includes nearly two-dozen members, the group has much more humble beginnings.
It began in 2007 when Ogletree—a lifelong basketball fan—learned that Amaker—a former Duke standout who went on to coach at Seton Hall and Michigan—was taking over the Harvard program.
Excited by the new addition to the Harvard community, Ogletree sought to make the new coach feel welcome, inviting Amaker and his wife, Stephanie Pinder-Amaker, to a concert and dinner.
Before long, Ogletree made plans with Amaker to visit one of his favorite breakfast spots—Henrietta’s Table, a sun-filled, moderately upscale restaurant situated in the Charles Hotel.
The original party consisted of four members: Amaker, Ogletree, Sullivan—Ogletree’s former student at the law school—and Manly, the executive editor of The Bay State Banner. It quickly grew as more people learned of the gathering.
“It’s funny, when some people have found out about it they’ve gotten a little—I won’t use the word jealous—but they’ve asked, ‘How come I don’t get an invite?’” Amaker says. “And it kind of grew like that.”
As the breakfast club has grown, so too has the Harvard basketball program’s fan base among prominent figures in the Boston area.