DURHAM, N.C. — It’s not that Joanne McCallie isn’t excited to bring her Duke University women’s basketball team to Bangor on Thursday to face the University of Maine.

She is.

But with plenty going on with her Blue Devils, McCallie hasn’t had a lot of time to think about a return trip to where her collegiate coaching career began in 1992. The Blue Devils are coming off a tough 84-58 loss at Northwestern, McCallie’s alma mater. When Duke plays Maine at the Cross Insurance Center on Thursday at 7 p.m., it’s a business trip, not a reunion.

“You do really get engrossed in your own team,” McCallie said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. “I do have a great sense of pride for what Amy has accomplished.”

McCallie referred to Amy Vachon, who coached the Black Bears to the America East Conference championship last season and a spot in the NCAA tournament. Vachon played point guard at Maine for McCallie, who coached the Black Bears for eight seasons (92-2000), winning 167 games and leading Maine to the NCAA tournament six times.

Duke women’s basketball coach Joanne McCallie is set to take her squad to Bangor on Thursday to face Maine, a program she coached for eight seasons. (Contributed photo / Duke athletics)

A Brunswick native, McCallie is in her 12th season at Duke. She left Maine for Michigan State in 2000. She coached the Spartans for seven seasons, guiding them to a national championship game appearance in 2005, which it lost to Baylor. Last season, the Blue Devils went 24-9, falling to the University of Connecticut in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. It was the 15th consecutive season a McCallie-coached team won at least 20 games.


Thursday’s game is the fourth between the Blue Devils and Black Bears since McCallie became Duke’s coach in 2007. Last season, Duke rolled past Maine, 69-39, in Durham, North Carolina. The teams played a home-and-home series in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons, when former Maine standout Cindy Blodgett coached the Black Bears. Those games also ended in lopsided Duke victories.

McCallie credits her time at Maine — particularly working with players like Blodgett and Vachon — as helping her learn how to be a head coach.

“That was eight years of learning as much as I could, making mistakes and learning from them,” McCallie said. “I really liked our longevity. I just love all the players I coached. There were such incredibly positive feelings of community (at Maine). The NCAA tournament runs were fun. I don’t think as a coach you forget those things.”

The Black Bears plan to honor Stacey Porrini Clingan, who died in March after a long battle with cancer, at Thursday’s game. A 1997 Maine graduate, Porrini Clingan was a key player for the Black Bears’ first runs to the NCAA tournament. In her time with the Black Bears, Porrini scored 1,128 points, grabbed 929 rebounds, and holds the team record for blocks in a game with seven. Porrini Clingan was named all-conference three times, and McCallie expects to see a few players who were members of her first Black Bear teams at the game.

“It’s so nice they’re honoring Stacey at Thursday’s game,” McCallie said.

In September, McCallie returned from a health-related leave of absence. She spent the summer managing a chronic but non-life-threatening kidney ailment.

“My health is good. My (kidney function) numbers are where I need to be. I’ve been 100 percent since July 1,” McCallie said.

Coming off Sunday’s loss to Northwestern, McCallie said she’s looking for a better effort from her team Thursday. The Black Bears opened the season with a strong effort in a 73-59 win over Toledo, in which they made 13 of 36 3-point attempts. Maine played at Bryant on Tuesday night.

“They had a wonderful game against Toledo,” McCallie said. “Boy, they shoot a lot of threes. We have to make sure they don’t get those open shots.”

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