Finally, Joanne P. McCallie has come back to East Lansing.
It’s been exactly two years since the former MSU women’s basketball coach has been on the public stage in East Lansing. That was following her team’s loss to Rutgers in the second round of the 2007 NCAA Tournament.
With the spotlight shining brightly on East Lansing as the university hosted the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament at Breslin Center for the first time, McCallie skirted questions left and right about her status as MSU’s head coach, this following an incident at a Florida airport that saw her husband arrested and a never-ending stream of speculation about whether she was in Florida to interview for the top job at Florida.
That was March 7, 2007. MSU was bounced from the NCAA Tournament on March 20. In that time, McCallie let the situation fester, flat out refusing to answer any questions about the situation. It’s not difficult to assume this distraction had an adverse affect on a very talented team that should’ve been the favorite playing in front of a very pro-MSU crowd at Breslin.
In the days following MSU’s untimely exit, the situation seemed to come to a halt when McCallie signed a revised contract that saw her base salary increase $100,000. No doubt, it was a well-deserved revision for a coach who’d led MSU to the NCAA Tournament five straight seasons, including an appearance in the national championship game in 2005.
Still, McCallie hid. She never held a customary year-end press conference. We should’ve known something was up.
And it was. On April 18, 2007, she accepted the head coaching position at Duke.
McCallie was revered by the MSU community, not only for her work in leading the program from obscurity to a national stage, but for her presence in the community as well.
This is why many felt betrayed by her departure. Not only were people betrayed, they were hurt. The knife was firmly twisted.
That is why there is so much anticipation for McCallie’s return to East Lansing this weekend, when she leads her No. 1-seed Blue Devils into Breslin Center.
Duke should easily paste Austin Peay to advance to the second round. The real question is if MSU can make it by Middle Tennessee State to play its former coach.
Even if MSU doesn’t make it to the second round, McCallie’s much-anticipated return to East Lansing absolutely should not be met with cheers. Imagine Nick Saban returning to Spartan Stadium.
Could you see 75,000-plus fans cheering him? Not a chance.
McCallie up-and-left this university — one that treated her like a queen — in a similar manner. Do not cheer this woman. The way she handled her departure was nothing short of despicable — both to her players and the MSU community.
Instead of trying to build a dynasty at MSU, she left for greener pastures in North Carolina.
What’s to cheer about that?
There’s no question — McCallie put MSU women’s basketball on the map. But instead of being remembered as a coaching legend at MSU, she’ll forever be known as a Benedict Arnold who turned her back on a community that loved her with absolutely zero public remorse.
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