Men’s Basketball: International living shaped new director

A new face is turning heads around the Ed and Rae Schollmaier Basketball Complex during men’s basketball practices.Kornelija Kairyte’s resume and experience in both overseas and professional basketball were able to secure her a job as the director of basketball operations for the men’s program.

The position became available after Sean Woods, then the director of basketball operations, filled a vacant assistant coach position left by Chris Crutchfield’s July departure to Oral Roberts University.

While Kairyte is still adjusting to TCU, getting acclimated to new situations and environments is nothing new for her. In 1994, Kairyte left her native country, Lithuania, for the United States at the age of 16 to pursue her education and basketball aspirations.

The move left her feeling homesick on a daily basis, she said. Even with the early struggles, Kairyte started to adjust to American culture and being around the English language daily.

“It’s a culture shock … the first year was probably the most difficult in all aspects,” Kairyte said. “All the international kids adjust pretty well because, if you’re surrounded by English-speaking people, then you learn pretty quick.”

Once she graduated from Patten University in Oakland, Calif., Kairyte moved on to Liberty University from 2000 to 2002, where she served as the director of basketball operations for the women’s program. Since leaving Liberty, Kairyte has worked in the NBA with the Seattle SuperSonics and the Dallas Mavericks in the marketing and promotions and community relations departments, respectively.

One of the people who interviewed Kairyte during the hiring process was Jack Hesselbrock, associate athletics director for internal relations. Hesselbrock said while Kairyte has no coaching aspirations, her role in keeping the players and coaches organized and on track is pivotal to a Division I athletics program.

“In today’s Division I programs, it is so critical to have a person with those talents,” Hesslebrock said.

Head coach Neil Dougherty said Kairyte’s value in areas such as time management, organization and academics will help bring stability to the position. While Dougherty said the position does not specifically entail the coaching or recruiting ends of the program, he said her overseas background will be a good tool when recruiting international players.

“Having someone who understands the climate internationally is going to be an asset for us,” Dougherty said. “Her resume and just the list of people she knows will open some doors for us in the recruiting market internationally.