Joanne P. McCallie stepped down at Duke on Thursday after 13 seasons in Durham, North Carolina. That leaves one of the biggest coaching jobs in women’s basketball open, and it will draw enormous interest.
McCallie had her share of success at Duke, and at Michigan State and Maine before that. But with one year left on her contract at Duke and no extension coming, it was time for a change. One could argue it’s past time, because Duke has lost its place among contenders for a national championship. McCallie reached the Elite Eight four times, but topped out there. For Duke to try to regain true elite status, it had to move from McCallie.
What direction will Duke go? A year ago, archrival North Carolina replaced longtime coach Sylvia Hatchell with Princeton’s Courtney Banghart, who was respected for her strategic acumen and Ivy League success, but had no experience in a Power 5 conference. UNC didn’t try to lure any of the most successful Power 5 head coaches, banking on Banghart’s ability to grow quickly in the job. North Carolina was 16-14 this past season, and thus far Banghart has recruited well there.
In the best years of the Duke-North Carolina women’s basketball rivalry, both programs were national championship contenders, including in 2006, when both advanced to the Final Four. Who might Duke look to in order to get back there? Here are some potential candidates for the job.
Duke could bring back the architect who made the program a powerhouse. Taking over in 1992-93, Goestenkors transformed the Blue Devils, who mostly had been an afterthought even in the ACC. In 15 seasons, she went 396-99 and led Duke to four Final Four appearances. In 2007, she was lured away to Texas, but it wasn’t the right fit. Goestenkors stepped down in 2012 after failing to get past the second round of the NCAA tournament with the Longhorns.
Since then, she has coached as a WNBA assistant, done broadcasting work and has been a coaching consultant. At age 57, she says her batteries are fully recharged, and the Blue Devil fan base likely would be energized to welcome her back.
“I’ve never felt more confident about coaching than I do today,” Goestenkors told ESPN on Thursday. “I’m reminded of a conversation I had last year with UNC football coach Mack Brown upon his return to coaching. He talked about missing the locker room and the energy of teaching and coaching young people. I can relate to that 100 percent.”
Katie Meier, Miami
A Duke alum who finished a stellar playing career there in 1990, Meier, 52, knows the ACC very well. She’s 292-187 in 15 seasons at Miami. Her best finish in the ACC is a tie for first, in 2011; this past season the Hurricanes were 15-15 overall and 7-11 in the ACC, tied for 11th.
Miami has not gotten past the second round of the NCAA tournament under Meier, so the question is could she have a lot more success with the caliber of recruits that she regularly should be able to get at Duke.
Lindsay Gottlieb, Cleveland Cavaliers
The former Cal coach, who took the Bears to the 2013 Final Four, moved on this past year to get experience at the NBA level as an assistant. But Gottlieb, 42, could opt to go back to the college game for this opportunity.
A New York native, she’s an Ivy League (Brown) graduate who would seem a good fit for a program with the academic reputation of Duke. And her time with the Cavs should be a bonus in recruiting players who hope to make it to the WNBA.
Gottlieb was 179-89 at Cal from 2011-19.
Adia Barnes, Arizona
At 43, she seems in a really good place at her alma mater, where she’s 68-60 in four seasons, but just had her best year. The Wildcats were 24-7 and finished fourth in the Pac-12.Barnes’ success on the court has prompted greater interest by the fan base as well.
The former WNBA player is a California native whose coaching career has been on the West Coast. So a lot points to her staying put, but Duke is a rare opportunity. And she might not be the only current Pac-12 coach in the mix for the Blue Devils job, as UCLA’s Cori Close also could be a candidate.
Tina Langley, Rice
A former assistant at Maryland, Langley has made a name for herself as a head coach at Rice. She is 115-43 with the Owls, and her 28 wins in 2018-19 were a program record. She was Conference USA coach of the year that season. The Owls were 21-8 this past season.
Langley has experience in the ACC from when the Terrapins were still in that league — she was part of two Final Four trips with Maryland — and also as an assistant with Clemson.
Michelle Clark-Heard, Cincinnati
She was 154-47 in six seasons at her alma mater, Western Kentucky, before taking over the Bearcats in 2018. The past two seasons, she went 32-15 at Cincinnati. In her time with those two programs, she has never won less than 22 games in a season.
Clark-Heard, 51, previously was also an assistant to Jeff Walz at Louisville, and helped the Cardinals make their first Final Four appearance in 2009.
Jennie Baranczyk, Drake
She has been interviewed for some Power 5 jobs in recent years, including North Carolina last year. At 38, the former Iowa player is happy at Drake in her hometown of Des Moines, but with her success there, it’s assumed at some point she’ll move on.
She is 174-83 overall in eight seasons at Drake, and 110-34 in the Missouri Valley Conference, where her Bulldogs have finished first three times and second three times.
Shea Ralph, UConn assistant
The former Huskies player and longtime assistant might be considered a possible heir apparent to Geno Auriemma at UConn. But Auriemma hasn’t shown signs of slowing down, and Ralph, 42, is ready to be a head coach. She’s also a native of Fayetteville, North Carolina.
Speaking of potential UConn-connected candidates, George Washington head coach Jennifer Rizzotti, another former Huskies guard, might be considered, too. At 46, she has an overall record of 379-276 combined in 17 seasons at Hartford and four at GW.
And there’s also Boston University’s Marisa Moseley, 38, the current head coach at her alma mater. She was a UConn assistant from 2009-18.
Joy Smith, Clemson assistant
Whether the Blue Devils would consider hiring an assistant such as Ralph or Smith remains to be seen. At 32, Smith is the youngest candidate on this list, and she’s a former Duke player who is known for her recruiting prowess. Smith, whose maiden name is Cheek, finished her Blue Devil career in 2010, having played for both Goestenkors (who recruited her) and McCallie.
Smith, a Charlotte, North Carolina, native, has been an assistant at her alma mater, and at Ohio State and Vanderbilt, before going to Clemson.
Smith is one of the intriguing names of former Blue Devils who are either in coaching or might enter the profession. That includes Lindsey Harding, who currently works with the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, and the program’s best all-around player, Alana Beard, who has retired from the WNBA.
Duke might even consider hiring Goestenkors as head coach knowing she might bring in assistants like Smith, Harding or Beard to help them possibly ascend to the head coaching position at some point.
Curt Miller, Connecticut Sun
It seems likely that Duke, which hasn’t had a male head coach in program history, will look to hire a woman. But there could be some male candidates in the mix, including Miller. He was formerly a college head coach at Bowling Green (11 years) and Indiana (two years), going a combined 290-124. In four seasons with the WNBA’s Sun, he is 79-57 with three playoff appearances. He took Connecticut to Game 5 of the WNBA Finals last year, and he also has had good experiences coaching former Duke players like Jasmine Thomas in Connecticut and Alana Beard when Miller was an assistant in Los Angeles.
Other male candidates who might be considered are Louisville’s Jeff Walz, whose name seems to get mentioned in a lot of coaching searches but has a very good job (and good pay) with the Cardinals, and Virginia Tech’s Kenny Brooks.