Duke women’s basketball found itself with an unexpected vacancy when longtime head coach Joanne McCallie resigned.
McCallie and the school were unable to agree on a contract extension, which left her heading into the final year of her deal — a situation that makes it next to impossible to recruit.
“As a coach in the final year of my contract, uncertainty is natural, and it takes away from competence and fun,” she said. “I hope my action allows the team to play free without the burden and uncertainty of their coach’s future.”
That leaves Duke with the uncertainty of who will take over the program.
One of the first candidates to emerge was the coach McCallie replaced in 2007 — Gail Goestenkors. “Coach G” led the Blue Devils to four Final Fours before leaving for Texas. She hasn’t coached at the college level since 2012, but she had the support of a large number of former players, fans and alumni. A letter of support signed by four decades of former Blue Devils was being prepared when the athletic department declared they weren’t going the Mack Brown route and bringing back a legend decades later.
A source close to the search told ESPN they didn’t want to “look to the past” for the next coach.
Looking forward, then, who are the best options for the Duke women?
Inside the Sisterhood
There are plenty of candidates with strong roots to Duke.
Katie Meier, Miami: A former Duke player, Meier has coached the Hurricanes for 15 years. While she’d be a natural fit at her alma mater, it might be tough to get a long-tenured coach to jump schools in the same conference.
Lindsey Harding, Sacramento Kings assistant: Another former Duke player, Harding’s coaching career has taken her to the NBA, where she’s the player development coach. She hasn’t had much experience recruiting at the college level, but with an experienced staff, she could make an immediate impact.
Joy Smith, Clemson assistant: A former Blue Devil player and assistant, she has plenty of experience as an assistant at Duke, Ohio State, Vanderbilt and Clemson. Just 32 years old, she’s an up-and-coming coaching star and should come at a lower price than Meier or Harding — something that may be a concern to the administration given McCallie’s reason for departing.
Alana Beard, retired WNBA player: Perhaps Duke’s best women’s player ever, Beard doesn’t have coaching experience, but, like Harding, with an experienced staff, she could make an immediate impact with recruits who know her from her college and pro career. She told the Duke Chronicle over the weekend that she hadn’t heard from the search committee, however.
Shannon Perry-LeBeauf, UCLA assistant: A Duke assistant for five years under both McCallie and Goestenkors, she’s a master recruiter and has been on power conference staffs for two decades. Head coach Cori Close has been mentioned as a possibility, but the Blue Devils may be better served giving Perry-LeBeauf the chance she earned long ago.
Jim Corrigan, Duke assistant: Of Duke’s three assistants, Corrigan has the most experience, including almost two decades as an assistant and interim head coach of the Old Dominion men’s team. That would give him an edge over fellow assistants Wanisha Smith and Sam Miller.
If Duke chooses to go outside of its former players and staff members, there are plenty of candidates at all price levels.
Adia Barnes, Arizona: The former WNBA player is at her alma mater and is more comfortable out west, but for the right price, Duke could get her to listen to a pitch. Still, that seems unlikely given the fact that staff members in all sports are taking pay cuts due to the pandemic.
Jennie Baranczyk, Drake: She interviewed for UNC’s vacancy last year and has built Drake into a mid-major powerhouse. Duke would be a natural step up in her career.
Tina Langley, Rice: She has experience in the ACC, as a Maryland assistant, and she also would be familiar with the difficulty of recruiting with Duke’s academic requirements, having spent time at Rice.
Lindsay Gottlieb, Cleveland Cavaliers assistant: The former Cal head coach has moved on to coach men in the NBA. It would likely be a tough sell to convince her to give up being a pioneer for women’s coaches at that level and head back to college, but her Ivy League experience would help her with the Blue Devils.
Other names to keep in mind: A&M assistant Kelly Bond-White, Oregon assistant Mark Campbell, Cincinnati coach Michelle Clark-Heard.