Duke’s Joanne P. McCallie resigned: Who might replace her?

In a statement, McCallie said, "I hope my action allows the team to play free, without the burden and uncertainty of their coach’s future."

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Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie calls out to her team on Nov. 5, 2019 vs. High Point at Cameron Indoor Stadium. (Mitchell Northam / The Next)

DURHAM, N.C. — After 13 seasons at the helm of Duke’s women’s basketball program, Joanne P. McCallie is calling it quits.

McCallie, 54, announced in a video posted to Twitter on Thursday that she would be resigning immediately. In her time in Durham, McCallie guided the Blue Devils to a 330-107 record, four regular season ACC titles and four Elite Eight appearances. Duke looked poised to make the NCAA tournament this past season before the coronavirus shuttered it, but the Blue Devils had missed the post season in two of the previous four seasons.

A source close to the situation told The Next that Duke had been “struggling” in recruiting recently because McCallie was entering the final year of her contract. There was no indication that she would receive an extension. Duke has secured just one ESPN Top 100 commitment from the 2020, 2021 and 2022 classes, and had more players transfer out this off-season than transfer in.

Sitting in her office, McCallie read from a statement in the Twitter video: “I just had a very difficult conversation with a group of women that I love and adore and admire. It was very heartfelt and bittersweet. I am choosing to step away as head coach at Duke. As a coach in the final year of my contract, uncertainty is natural and it takes away from confidence and fun. I’m pretty sure there’s a level of uncertainty amongst the Duke family. I want to bring clarity with great pride for all… Clarity and principle over uncertainty must prevail.”

She continued: “In closing, I hope my action allows the team to play free, without the burden and uncertainty of their coach’s future.”

McCallie added that she is forgoing the majority of her final year of compensation and that she is 100 percent healthy.

Prior to taking the Duke job in 2007, McCallie had coaching stints at Maine and Michigan State. In 2005, she was named National Coach of the Year after leading the Spartans to a Big Ten title and an appearance in the NCAA Championship game.

At Duke, she coached seven All-Americans and five first-round WNBA Draft picks.

“Here at Duke, Joanne’s extraordinary passion for excellence produced championship-level success and provided many timeless, captivating moments for both our student-athletes and fans,” Duke Vice President and Director of Athletics Kevin White said in a statement. “To be sure, Joanne’s unwavering commitment to leadership and service has had an enormous impact on the development of countless young women over the past three decades.”

The timing of McCallie’s resignation is strange. Now in early July, Duke is the only Power 5 school with a head coach opening. Duke also just recently landed a grad transfer from Cal in Sara Anastasieska, who told The Next earlier this week that McCallie’s success in developing pro players was a reason why she committed to the Blue Devils. In an interview with All in the Game, Mikayla Boykin talked about the loyalty McCallie showed her through four knee injuries.

Duke said in a release that it will begin a search for McCallie’s replacement immediately.

But who could be considered?

Current head coaches

Duke might be able to pluck someone away from their current job and lure them to Cameron Indoor Stadium and the ACC. Tina Langley should be mentioned as a potential candidate as she has led Rice to mid-major stardom and national prominence over the past five seasons, winning a pair of CUSA titles and accumulating and overall record of 103-57. Langley spent seven seasons at Maryland – five of which were as Brenda Frese’s associate head coach – and also spent time as an assistant at Georgia, Clemson and Toledo.

For the right price, Cori Close could be an option for Duke too. Close, 48, has been at UCLA since 2011. She guided the Bruins to a WNIT Championship in 2015, and has won at least 22 games and gone to at least the Sweet 16 in each season since (except for this past year, which was cut short by the coronavirus). Close has experience in the ACC too, working as an assistant at Florida State from 2004 to 2011. She is, however, a California native and – aside from that stint at FSU – has spent her entire basketball career in the Golden State. Pulling her away could be difficult.

Duke could also look just down the road in Burlington, N.C. at Elon’s Charlotte Smith, who has guided the Phoenix to five postseason appearances in eight seasons. The question is, would one of the greatest Tar Heels of all-time put on the colors of that other school on Tobacco Road?

Former players

A loud group of folks on social media have been calling for the Blue Devils to hire one of their own in Alana Beard. As a Blue Devil, Beard led Duke to a pair of Final Fours and was a three-time ACC Player of the Year. She was a very successful pro too, winning a WNBA title with the LA Sparks and claiming two Defensive Player of the Year awards.

Beard has long been regarded as one of the smartest players of her generation and is often seen as a coach on the floor. She has a degree in sociology from Duke, participated in a business program at Harvard, is a senior associate at Silicon Valley Bank has done TV work for ESPN and the ACC Network for the past year.

Another former Duke player who could be considered is Lindsey Harding, the ACC Player of the Year in 2007. Since retiring from playing, Harding has worked as a scout and in player development for the Philadelphia 76ers and the Sacramento Kings.

Wanisha Smith — who ranks fifth all-time in career assists at Duke — joined McCallie’s staff last season as an assistant. She also coached at Longwood for eight seasons and at Towson for three. She could be an option for Duke on an interim basis, or long-term if the Blue Devils want to go in-house for a hire.

Former Duke player Joy Smith — now an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Clemson — should also be mentioned. Her previous stops include Vanderbilt, Ohio State and her alma mater. In 2018, she was named one of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s “Thirty Under 30.” She is also a former White House intern, which is pretty cool.

Or…

Duke could turn to the woman who led the program to 13 straight NCAA tournament appearances, four Final Fours and eight ACC regular season titles.

That’s Gail Goestenkors, who told the Athletic this past March that she’s ready to coach again after being away from the college game for eight years. After leaving Duke in 2007, she spent five seasons at Texas and also had stints as an assistant with the LA Sparks and Indiana Fever. After leaving coaching, Goestenkors took classes, traveled, read and did television work. Then, she got the itch to coach again.

“After I had gone through the year of consulting, I was like, ‘My God, I miss this. I really want to get back in,'” Goestenkors, a Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame inductee, told the Athletic. “I talked to a lot of my mentors and some coaches that I have worked with in the past and they were all, ‘You have got to get back in.’ … So, yeah, I’m excited and looking forward to seeing more opportunities that are out there.”

That opportunity could be in Durham, North Carolina.

Another ACC school, Georgia Tech, had success this past year when it handed its program over to Nell Fortner, who had been out of coaching since 2012. The Yellow Jackets went 20-11, made the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament and were considered as a bubble team for the NCAA tournament.

Goestenkors spent 15 years at Duke, turning the Blue Devils into a women’s basketball power. Can she do it again? Maybe.