Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie is trying to treat Thursday’s game against Elon like any other. That might not be so easy, because McCallie’s daughter, Maddie, plays for the Phoenix.
“I’ve always known the game was on the schedule, but it always seemed so far off. Well, now it’s here,” the coach said.
“Elon’s a great school. Elon’s a little mini Duke,” she added. “We pay them money and that helps their program, so it made sense. I felt it was the right thing.”
But the rarity of coaching against her daughter, a reserve guard at Elon, wasn’t lost on McCallie.
“It’s a good story,” she said. “I feel honored for my family. I also have two nieces who play Division I basketball.”
Maddie McCallie is just excited for the chance to play at No. 21 Duke in its famous home building, Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“It’s going to be a great atmosphere and a lot of fun to play in Cameron,” Maddie McCallie said. “It’s a little weird seeing my mom right there on the sideline, but overall it’s another game.”
As much as the McCallies downplayed their mother-daughter matchup, it is definitely unusual. Cal State Bakersfield coach Greg McCall has gone against his daughter, Erica, twice over the last two seasons when his team played Stanford.
Although college players often play for their coaching parents, McCallie was happy her daughter chose Elon after transferring from Miami, Ohio, a few years ago.
“I’m really proud of her and she’s at the right place for her,” McCallie said. “I think it’s unique. One thing it speaks to, as much as I’d like Maddie on my team and she could have been, it’s really important to let your kids do their own thing. It would be fun; I didn’t think it was something that would help her develop. A lot of parents don’t know how to step away, and try to over-coach their kids. The best thing you can do is love them and step away and let other people coach them.”
Elon is only about 45 minutes from Duke, so McCallie has gone to see her daughter play a few times this year. Because the teams are scheduled to face each other, she had Maddie ask Elon coach Charlotte Smith for permission to attend.
Maddie had both her parents in the stands on Sunday. Hours after Duke upset No. 3 South Carolina, they were cheering on Elon against North Carolina.
“They have five seniors this year and are a terrific team,” McCallie said. “We talk often, but mostly not about basketball. It’s mostly about family. She’s really proud of her team. She was a starter last year and comes off the bench now. I’m really proud of her.”
While mother and daughter both know where they will be on Thursday, a big question will be where Joanne McCallie’s husband, John, sits and who he supports.
“I have a feeling that my dad will support me,” Maddie McCallie said, laughing. “Both ways are kind of weird to think about and both ways are kind of exciting. My dad will probably be supporting the Elon team and be sitting behind our bench.”
John McCallie, an economics professor at North Carolina, said it’s going to be a very tough choice.
“I haven’t decided on what to wear or where to sit yet,” he said in a phone interview Monday. “Definitely going to have both colors on.”
As far as which team he’ll be rooting for, that one was easy.
“I’m definitely pulling for a Duke win,” he said. “After all, we just got ranked and would like to keep that. It is going to be exciting, though. I’m really proud of Maddie and what she’s done forging her own path.”
Nicholls State coach DoBee Plaisance knows what the McCallies will be going through. She faced her daughter, Theresa, in 2010 when she was a freshman at LSU. The game was billed as a mother-daughter matchup, and the coach got LSU to take the hour-long trip to Thibodaux, Louisiana.
Six years later, Coach Plaisance still gets emotional talking about it.
“I remember the game like it was yesterday,” she said. “It was for me a very emotional, passionate struggle. There was a struggle from the onset. Scheduling the game, I didn’t want to do it. It was emotional for me for a while. Did I do right for the team? Did I show both teams respect?”
Her daughter had eight points, five rebounds and three assists in the 88-35 victory by LSU. The Nicholls State coach has a framed photo of a postgame hug with her daughter in her office, a constant reminder of a special day.
“The look on my face was a relief that it was over with,” said DoBee Plaisance, a court coach for McCallie at USA Basketball in 2006. “I hope Joanne has the same relief when her game is done.”
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