JOANNE P. MCCALLIE

“Choice not Chance” is Coach P's philosophy in sports and life

“My senior year in high school, a national magazine put me on its All-America team. I was the first girl from Maine to make it. When the magazine came out, I found they’d spelled my name wrong. That made me so mad — but it motivated me! I had already developed an underdog, fighter mentality that was going to stay with me forever. Maybe that’s the fire in the belly that one day led me to coach women’s basketball at Duke.”

“The lessons of childhood stay with me. My mother always stressed to my sister and me that she wanted us to become strong, independent women who would never have to rely on anybody. Interestingly, we weren’t pushed into sports like so many kids are today. All my dad did was put up a hoop in our driveway and I started spending hours every day shooting baskets.”

“One day my dad was driving me to a basketball camp and I told him that to thank him, I was going to earn a scholarship and he wouldn’t have to pay for me to go to college. He laughed and smiled, but I was serious. I followed through, and earned a scholarship to Northwestern University. After graduation, I worked in sales in downtown Chicago for a while. But I learned the lesson that money doesn’t equal happiness. And I missed basketball.”


“I teach young people they can make choices every day that give them control over their lives. I do this through basketball.”


“So on the next part of my journey, working toward an MBA, I also coached. My first head coaching job was at the University of Maine. At 26, I was the youngest head coach in Division I. We lost our first nine games, and finished with 9 wins and 20 losses. One of the important things I learned is that good coaches have to be willing to learn, and to be wrong. That’s the only way to be successful, in coaching or in life.”

“After 8 seasons at Maine I went to Michigan State. We went to the Final Four but lost a close game in the Finals. And then in 2007 I was offered my dream job, at Duke.”

“My first year at Duke was very tough. I’d replaced a very successful coach. The players and fans didn’t quite trust me yet. When I was at my low point, I got a knock at my office door. It was Coach K — a long-time hero. He gave me a no-nonsense pep talk that encouraged me to hang in there.”

“My guiding philosophy is ‘Choice not Chance.’ I teach young people they can make choices every day that give them control over their lives. My calling is to empower others, and I choose to do this through basketball.”

More Fearless Stories

Scott LaBrecque

“I would go running like I was going to therapy. And it worked.”

Kim Cocce

She Lifts Olympic Weights, Medical Texts, and Everyone's Spirits

Monica Castillo

She relied on her instincts to survive an abusive childhood. And she has thrived — an inspiration to all.

Jill Staton Bullard

“Just leap. Take the first step to make a difference, and the next step isn't as hard.”

Playing in the dirt strengthens immunity
It is a happy talent to know how to play
Only 1 in 5 workers regularly take lunch breaks