Frequent visits from her four children and eight grandchildren keep Celestina Torres’ home lively. But when Duke men’s basketball games are on television, Torres makes everything stop.
“I say ‘Come in, everybody sit,’” Torres said. “That’s my time.”
She’s elated when Duke wins and a wreck when it struggles.
“Sometimes when Duke is down, I shake my fists,” Torres said.
She’s a lot like most Duke fans, except that the Blue Devils themselves are also big fans of hers.
With five national titles, an iconic coach and a steady stream of star players, Duke’s men’s basketball program features some of the most celebrated figures on campus. But to them, people like Torres deserve a share of adulation.
A Duke housekeeper since 2005, Torres is one of the half dozen Duke Facilities Management employees maintaining the spaces where the Duke men’s basketball team works, trains and plays. To the Blue Devils, the housekeepers are part of the team.
“Everyone can see the players,” Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “They don’t see the support staff, whether it be coaches, trainers, academic tutors, but also the people who make sure our environment is at the highest level.”
Torres, who cleans the Schwartz-Butters Athletic Center, including the coaches’ offices, has built a warm relationship with Krzyzewski. When she’s brought her family to games, Krzyzewski makes it a point to greet them.
“He’s busy, so to have time for me and my family, it’s very nice,” Torres said.
Krzyzewski’s affection for Torres stems from his childhood, when his mother worked nights cleaning offices.
“When I see Celestina, I think of my mom,” Krzyzewski said. “I think of how important my mom was to me. I think of how important Celestina and the other members of her team are to us. I want the players to understand that.”
That comes through when Krzyzewski talks with his team about accountability.
His message is, with so many working hard for them, the players have a duty to do so in return.
The connections between players and Facilities staff often go beyond simple gratitude.
After crossing paths during late-night workout sessions, Duke guard Brennan Besser and Facilities utility worker William Harris, who maintains Cameron Indoor Stadium, struck up a friendship.
Harris recalls Besser once interrupting his post-game cleaning to introduce his parents. Before games, Besser often seeks out Harris. Harris offers encouragement, while Besser provides insight into how the Blue Devils are preparing for that night’s test.
“I just like to let him know what we’re talking about as a team,” Besser said.
“Because he’s a part of our team.”