If nothing else, Joanne P. McCallie has always been a bulldog.

Whenever someone told her she couldn’t do something, she worked harder to prove them wrong. Whenever she was challenged in life, she worked harder to overcome it.

So it should come as no surprise that, after being rejected by several book publishing companies, she continued to push forward, to try to sell the idea that she was trying to put into words.

You see, McCallie had a promise to keep. When her daughter, Maddie, was about four years old, McCallie told her that someday she would write a book that would help Maddie understand the choices her parents had made and would help her become a better person.

For McCallie, the Brunswick High graduate who is now the head women’s basketball coach at Duke University, the time had come. She wanted to have the book written before her daughter graduated from high school, which she will do this June before heading to Miami (Ohio) University, where she’ll play basketball.

Finally, she found a publishing company, Wiley, willing to take a chance on a first-time author.

The result — “Choice Not Chance” — is a hard-to-put-down personal look at what made McCallie the person, parent and coach that she is.

McCallie, who began her head coaching career at the University of Maine 20 years ago, will be back in Maine this week for book signings in Brunswick, South Portland and Bangor.

“I have to get back to Maine at least once a year,” she said in a phone interview. “I’m always ordering lobster and having it sent down (to Durham, N.C.). I can’t stay away from Maine too long.”

The book, subtitled “Rules For Building a Fierce Competitor,” is a biographical self-help book, using personal experiences by McCallie and her family to demonstrate how choices, good or bad, affect one’s life. The suggestions that she provides can be used not only for coaching basketball, but running a business. Or even raising a family.

“It’s a book for anyone in leadership roles trying to sort through life’s events,” said the 46-year-old McCallie, who has a career record of 457-180 at Maine, Michigan State and Duke, including a runner-up finish in the 2005 NCAA tournament while at Michigan State.

“Choices are powerful,” she continued. “When people have indicated they have made a choice, they are indicating that they own it and that they are in charge.”

The book includes an extensive look at her career at Maine and how those early years shaped her coaching philosophy of “Choice Not Chance.”

As a coach she tries to teach her players to think reasonably, not emotionally; to focus on the process and not worry about the scoreboard; to compete daily, whether in the classroom, in practice or in games; and to continue to be a leader, no matter how difficult the circumstances might be.

She uses her own experiences as an example of how to deal with personal and professional obstacles. She writes about the time she was an assistant coach at Auburn and drove her car off the road, attempting to read a Time magazine article while she was driving. The car tumbled over several times into a ditch.

She writes about attending the wake of close friend and Maine supporter Walter Hunt hours before the Black Bears were to play nationally ranked Alabama in a home game — and then trying to coach the game, which Maine won.

She writes about attending a press conference for Cindy Blodgett on the day when Maine’s all-time scoring leader was drafted by the WNBA — just hours after McCallie got the heart-wrenching news that she had suffered a miscarriage.

She writes about the contractual problems she had at Michigan State, caused mainly because she signed a contract she didn’t read and, she said, “Obviously no one would do that, but I did.” And she writes about the cold reaction she received when she informed school officials she was leaving for Duke.

“I know that some people like to think leadership is somewhat stoic,” she said. “But I’m not going to tell you how to lead without telling you what my issues are. It was important to share those experiences. It cultivates who I am. Those experiences were personal and profound in their impacts on me.

“I’m not afraid to say life is not always perfect and you can have these things sneak up on you. I wanted the book to be authentic and be me. And I don’t think it could be about me without those incidents.”

She began compiling notes for the book when she left Michigan State for Duke. Then, working with author Rob Rains, she organized the thoughts and started putting them into words.

“It was very humbling to write this book,” she said. “It was very daunting.”

Writing the book, she said, was also a way to reconnect with Maine. While McCallie’s career has taken her all over the world, Maine is where her roots are. She says throughout the book that her parents sacrificed much to raise the family in Maine, and those sacrifices helped shape her life.

“If I had my way, every high school in Maine, every leadership class, would have a copy of this book,” she said. “I’m sensitive to Maine kids. Mainers love sports, love basketball and appreciate a hard work ethic. Considering all those dynamics, if it didn’t sell anywhere else but the book sold in Maine, I would be happy.”

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH