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Ecstatic — Yet Subdued — Family Celebration

The Kivetts of Lewisville, North Carolina, have five NC State degrees and almost 100 years of volunteering at the Atlantic Coast Conference men’s basketball tournament between them. None of them, however, had ever seen the Wolfpack win an ACC men’s title until Saturday night.

The Kivett family on the sidelines at the 2022 ACC tournament
The Kivett family on the sideline at the 2022 ACC tournament

WASHINGTON, D.C. — They were the happiest observers in Capital One Arena Saturday night in the aftermath of the NC State men’s basketball team’s surprise 84-76 victory over North Carolina in the Atlantic Coast Conference men’s championship game.

Even if they didn’t outwardly show it.

All four members of the Kivett family — longtime operations volunteers at the league’s prestigious tournament, with a total of five NC State degrees among them — were thrilled to experience what it meant to see the Wolfpack cut down the nets after its first championship since 1987, back when parents David and Tanya were dating as NC State students.

For 37 consecutive tournaments, David Kivett (’87, computer science) has volunteered as a stats runner, media liaison and internet and technology specialist. His wife, Tanya (’88, business management), began volunteering as a press runner and coordinator in 1992.

Both their sons, Casey (’16, textile engineering; ’20, textile engineering M.S.) and Grayson (’21, communication), have worked as volunteers since they were teenagers, long before they ever enrolled at NC State.

That’s almost 100 years of voluntary service to the league without pay or a championship to celebrate for their alma mater.

Stoic Celebration

There’s no cheering on press row, in the media work room or in the photographer’s bullpen, a lesson each of them learned before they were handed their first all-access credentials.

Saturday night, however, they allowed themselves to let loose a little, actually cracking a visible smile in the aftermath of the Wolfpack’s win over the Tar Heels, especially as they took a family Christmas card photo in front of the completed tournament bracket in the arena’s hallway.

Four people make wolfie signs with their hands while stand in front of a large wall poster showing the final ACC Tournament bracket with NC State's logo shown as the winner
The Kivetts show their wolfies after NC State’s ACC championship win

“We’ve been trained by our parents not to cheer at the tournaments, because we are volunteering for the ACC,” says 25-year-old Grayson, who is an assistant director of annual giving at the Wolfpack Club and is currently working on a master’s degree in sports management. “But it was hard not to be excited.

“I tried to keep it in check.”

One of Grayson’s jobs was to escort ESPN sideline reporter Jess Sims all week, and she knew of his connection to the winning team.

“Towards the end of the championship game, she looked at me, smiled and said to stay calm because our work was not yet done,” he says.

It’s a lesson he’s known since volunteering for his first tournament at the age of 15.

Casey, 30, volunteered in NC State’s athletics communication office as a student and had similar emotions as his brother after seeing the Wolfpack win an unprecedented five games in five days.

“While on the court postgame, making sure everybody was doing what they were supposed to be doing, I had the biggest grin on my face the entire time,” says Casey, the director of U.S. sales for the German nonwoven textiles machinery maker DiloGroup. “I think looking at any of us after State won, you might think we were a little subdued in celebrating.

“After working so many ACC tournament finals through the years, I could tell all of us were going through our postgame duties with a little lighter step.”

Volunteer Nature

David, Casey and Grayson are all Eagle Scouts, so volunteering is part of their DNA.

The time sacrifice for the tournament is huge, but it’s mitigated by the fact that they’re working at what has traditionally been the most prestigious conference tournament in college basketball.

Tanya, a native of Shallotte who moved to Lewisville when she and David were married in 1988, has enjoyed the family’s ride and the relationships she’s made with volunteers, media and ACC staff through the years. It’s a satisfying break from the positions she has held for 32 years at Winston-Salem clothing manufacturer Hanesbrand.

“I’ve made so many good friends throughout my years of working the tournament,” she says.

Still, working all the events is a voluntary commitment that has been part of the family’s vacation plans for four decades — a commitment that comes with some serious sideline and backstage perks, but no compensation.

David Kivett began volunteering in 1985 as a student in the NC State athletics sports information office, as it was called back then, handling minor duties during football and basketball games. He volunteered to be a student statistics runner for his first ACC tournament in Greensboro in 1986, while in his final semester of earning a degree in computer science.

After working so many ACC tournament finals through the years, I could tell all of us were going through our postgame duties with a little lighter step.

The native of Lewisville, North Carolina, missed going to the 1987 tournament in Landover, Maryland, when head coach Jim Valvano led his team on an unlikely run for the school’s 10th all-time championship. Since then, however, he has watched as 10 other schools — including neighbors North Carolina, Duke and Wake Forest — won titles.

He saw his alma mater’s team advance to the title game four times (1997, 2002, ’03 and ’07), with two losses to North Carolina and two losses to Duke.

He’s had multiple jobs through the years, both professionally and as an ACC volunteer.

He’s been a runner, taking in-game and postgame statistics to members of the media covering the games. He’s been a coordinator of photographers, creating baseline photo boxes where they shoot and assigning them to media outlets. And he’s helped assign seats for individual reporters and coordinate postgame interviews.

Since the early 1990s, when the internet first became a necessity, he’s used his computer science and IT knowledge from his 25-year career with Piedmont Air, US Air and US Airways to set up internet service at more than 20 different football and basketball venues, from high-speed landline connections to all-wireless connectivity.

The four members of the Kivett family standing at center court for the 2018 ACC Tournament in Brooklyn, New York.
The Kivetts on the court for the 2018 ACC Tournament

It’s been a way to marry his love of athletics, his knowledge of computers and technology and his volunteer nature in the most intense sporting events imaginable.

“It’s something we started doing in college and have just enjoyed the challenges,” says David, now an assistant chief in charge of finance and logistics for the Lewisville Fire Department. “Over the years, we have developed relationships with most of the media. If I didn’t get to see them at a Wake Forest event while I was working there, I always knew I would see them in March.

“Those friendships have helped me understand what their needs are to do their jobs, and that helps us assist them in what they do. It hasn’t always been easy. Different venues provide different challenges, and you never know what technology is going to break next.”

He’s been the onsite electronics troubleshooter for internet connections, stat crew operations and electrical issues. He’s done essentially the same job at every ACC Football Championship; at every ACC Women’s Championship since 2000; for NCAA sites in Raleigh, Greensboro and Winston-Salem; and for Wake Forest football and men’s basketball for 35 years.

The technology has been the biggest change and challenge through the years, as the ACC has gone from manual stat-keeping to electronic, from hardwired telephones to wireless internet, from telecopiers to fax machines to stat monitors to up-to-the-second online stat displays available to every member of the media covering a game.

“I always said I wouldn’t even try to put on an ACC tournament without David Kivett and his family,” said Brian Morrison, the ACC’s emeritus associate commissioner of media relations. “They have been an incredible asset to the league.”

Like many NC State fans and alumni who actually did joyously celebrate last week’s victory, the enormity of the moment hasn’t quite settled in for a family who all went back to work Monday morning with hidden smiles.

“I still think it’s a dream,” Grayson Kivett says.