March 29, 2000
East Lansing, Mich. -
MSU Women's Basketball Coach Joanne P. McCallie Teleconference
March 27, 2000
Clarence Underwood - Director of Athletics
We interviewed and talked to many coaches, but we found in my opinion the best coach available for Michigan State University. That person has been highly successful at the University of Maine and we think she is going to do a great job at our university and are pleased to have her join our Spartan family.
Joanne P. McCallie - Head Coach Michigan State University
I cannot express how excited I am at the opportunity to be the new head coach at Michigan State. The people have been nothing short of amazing throughout the process of hiring. The tradition of the school is obvious and something that is very exciting and the potential of the program is something that I'm very excited about.
I'm very honored to follow Karen (Langeland) in her incredible career. I hope I can say I have a 24-year career sometime. I'm just honored to be the coach and really looking forward to working with the players. It was great to talk with Becky (Cummings) and Donita (Johnson) today and I'm just very excited about the opportunity and can't wait to get out there.
When did you make the decision and when did the interview process begin? It seemed like it happened fast.
Coach McCallie - I have to give a lot of credit to Michigan State, particularly Clarence and Shelley (Appelbaum) and the whole troop there for doing an outstanding job in terms of confidentiality in talking with me. They were very patient with my situation, not only with the NCAA Tournament, but with my pregnancy as well. It's added another dimension to this process. Pretty much the decision was made at the conclusion of the season after a very thorough meeting with Clarence and a group of individuals from the search committee. They made it very easy and I'm very excited to work with everybody.
What's it going to be like leaving your home state?
Coach McCallie - That is not easy at all. Of course I love the people of Maine and I love our team. I love the support that we've been able to have at Maine, but I feel it's time. I've done some really fun and wonderful things at Maine, but it's time to move on and try some new challenges and also provide an opportunity for somebody with new energy to take the program at Maine to another level.
What was the attraction to Michigan State?
Coach McCallie - First and foremost the people. The way that we were handled, meaning my husband and I and my family, the recruiting process, getting to know Clarence as well as Shelley certainly and Kathy Lindahl, the list kind of goes from there. I was just very impressed with the direction that they took with talking to us. I've had some other instances to be offered jobs, but never quite in the same way in the total support of the program, the total excitement about women's basketball and just the thoroughness with how they dealt with us as a family. I'm just really impressed by that.
I do have some familiarity with Michigan. I've got friends in the area. I think it's a beautiful state. I've traveled throughout Michigan - Traverse City, Leeland, Detroit and different spots. It just didn't seem that unfamiliar to me. It just seemed like the right place.
Coach you played at Northwestern. Was part of the attraction to come back and coach in the Big Ten?
Coach McCallie - Absolutely. I can't say enough about the Big Ten in terms of its commitment to women and sports. I've always felt that they have been ahead of everybody in terms of supporting women. I was at Northwestern during the days when Vivian Stringer was doing amazing things at Iowa. It just seemed like they had a handle on women's sports. For that reason, I've always respected the Big Ten in being ahead of the game a little bit. There's no question, I'm quite proud to be in the conference.
Can you talk a little more about how hard the decision to leave was being a Maine native?
Coach McCallie - It's never easy to leave your home state. However, I do want to say I'm a little bit of a Navy brat in terms of my lifestyle. I was born in Monteray, California, I've lived in many states across the country. Maine has been great. Again, we will always return to Maine, vacation in Maine and even visit family in Maine. But, I've been a lot of different places. My family is kind of unique that way, so moving to Michigan isn't a real big deal because we've been a lot of different places throughout our lives. The excitement of the opportunity outweighs any possible difficulties with the move.
Talk a little bit about your style of play and what kind of style of play you will infuse into Michigan State.
Coach McCallie - Very much an up-tempo offensive style of play, but also very smart in terms of shot selection and ball movement. Defensively, we are a multiple defensive team that includes a variety of different defenses in order to have the most ball pressure possible. I think our defense has been the cornerstone of our success.
I know the players are really excited to hear this, but I feel like we need to be the best conditioned team in the conference. Especially, playing in such a physical conference where those games can beat up on you night in and night out. We're just very excited and I can't wait to get out there and get to work.
What challenges will you have at Michigan State that are different from you've had at Maine?
Coach McCallie - The Big Ten is obviously a very competitive conference with great teams all over the place. You have to be ready night in and night out and that's an important concept for our team to understand. On any given night, anything can happen in that conference. To be quite honest with you, that's true of the conference I'm coming from as well. The bottom line is we want to pursue championships, academically as well as athletically. We want to get to the NCAA Tournament. There are five seniors who will be on the team next year and I know they have a desire to make a statement their senior year.
A lot of it is the same and the benefit is great support. Hopefully, we can really get the crowd going. Instead of having one game where everybody shows up, I try to earn the respect of the crowd so that they show up night in and night out. That's the big thing you want to try and do. We have to get that excitement and were really going to need the crowd behind us to accomplish things next year and make sure we take care of those home games.
Tell us a little bit about your recruiting philosophy and the type of player you would like to bring into the program.
Coach McCallie - Recruiting-wise, I like to bring in people who are mentally sharp. Academically, are going to work hard, give their best effort. I like a diverse team, interesting people from different backgrounds. I think it lends to the bonding of the team. Obviously, you need your fare share of tall players, inside players who can mobilize and do things on the inside. I like to coach quick guards who can flash and shoot. I think I'm like any coach in America that loves anybody who can hit three's given the nature of the game and how it's changed the game.
You will have five seniors on next year's team. Elaborate on what you want their role to be.
Coach McCallie - I think seniors are incredibly important and essential to any program. My role there is to help them and guide them and help them lead the team by their commitment to get the job done and to go after their goals and to go after their dream of playing in a NCAA Tournament. I think it's very important to put that out there and be excited about the possibilities. By talking with at least Becky (Cummings) and Donita (Johnson) it sounds like they are very excited and very willing to do whatever it takes to get to that level. As a coach, I have to mentor them so that they can be the strong leaders that they need to be so the team is cohesive and sticks together.
That's one of the things that I can reflect on with the men's team and watching them in the NCAA Tournament. The fact that they can handle adversity so well indicates that they are a very close team and they have great leadership. I think we can learn from that on the women's side. That's what it takes - you have to be able to handle adversity, not simply when things are going well.
I think those seniors are critical. I can't wait to work with them. I know it's a bit difficult for them because they have a new staff to work with and that can be difficult. But we are going to try to make it as easy as possible on them to lead and grow and help the team achieve its goals.
When do you make the move to East Lansing?
Coach McCallie - I don't know. You have to talk to the baby in my stomach. We have a little bit of a problem in terms of negotiating time here. So, we are just going to have to see how this goes.
Do you have a due date?
Coach McCallie - I do. I don't know if he is going to follow it or not. The due date is April 7. They expected him to come sooner, but then he decided not to. So, I guess it's anyone's guess.
Can you talk about how quickly you expect things to be successful here as far as getting into the NCAA Tournament? Also, can you say how bummed out Stephen King is right now?
Coach McCallie - Obviously, we are going to hit the ground running. Our goal immediately would be to pursue championships as I spoke about, the regular season, tournament, NCAA - all of the above. What you need to begin to do is take those steps in the preseason and carry that over to the season.
We will work as hard as we can and move as fast as we can. The team has obviously done great things in going to the WNIT this year and accomplishing some great things along the way. So, it's a natural step to want to immediately be in the NCAA Tournament and find a way to get there. That's the start and then you build from there.
I have to say, Stephen King and his wife are wonderful people. They have been great supporters of our program. We are so thankful that he is healthy and happy and riding again and having a good time down in Florida.
Coach do you have a plan or an idea of how you want to market the team to get more fans to come out and support the Michigan State women's basketball program?
Coach McCallie - Yes. We all have a role in that. Obviously, I need to get out and about as much as possible. Public speak and meet people and promote the program and promote the various games. The players have to take initiative too. I know they have in the past and we will just have to fortify that even more so.
Just getting out to meet kids, meet families, meet people - let them know who they are. They all have to become personalities to people in the community and that takes a little bit of time and a little bit of organization.
The final piece is making sure that we are a fun team to watch. For people to see that we play incredibly hard, that we move the ball well, that we're smart and that we can play with anybody. That's the kind of thing that you begin to show to fans and they get really interested in coming back because you just never know when you are going to have some of those breakthrough games.
So, it's a combination of all those things. I know that the team is really up for it, based on what I've heard. I know that we are up for it as a coaching staff. It's just going to take some hard work and getting out there and doing it.
Could you give us some rough dates as to when Michigan State first approached you about the job and when you made your final decision?
Coach McCallie - Michigan State approached somewhere in late February. Just some phone call conversations and what not. Very thorough in that. They were very patient obviously with the NCAA Tournament and all that I had to do with the Maine team. Unfortunately we lost to North Carolina so our season ended. Then they took initiative to bring some folks up to Portland, Maine to meet with me confidentially because of my condition and I couldn't hop on a plane to get over that way.
A decision was pretty much made within that week. Talking about the offer occurred the 20th through the 24th of March. Then there was a little more dialog and discussion and thinking on the part of my husband and I and our family. Well, there you go.
Coach, can you talk about recruiting in Michigan and what that will be like?
Coach McCallie - I can't wait for that. That's tough, it's a battle, it's a wonderful battle because there are so many great kids in Michigan. It would be great battling just in-state schools, but unfortunately, a lot of the great kids leave Michigan as you all know. That's something we really have to fight hard with, showing them what a great opportunity they have at Michigan State to make a difference, to stay close to home to get the fan support up.
There are a lot of variables there, but there is no question there is a lot of work to be done there because there has been a long history of in-state players going to other schools. I think it's kind of neat if a player from Michigan can make a name for themselves in their home state. I think there are some real benefits to that and hopefully we can sell that to some student-athletes and really make a difference instate.
Coach do you look at that as a plus or minus that Michigan high school basketball is played in the fall? I know it gives a lot of other college coaches the opportunity to come into the state.
Coach McCallie - It's a tricky thing, it does kind of give them a great opportunity. They are going to know about players anyway, I guess it does make it a little bit easier for them to come in and see players. The great players are known about anyway and any coach is going to do what they can to recruit those players.
It's just one of those things that is a reality that you deal with and you work very, very hard at trying to do your homework, identify them early and allow those student-athletes to recognize that there is a tremendous value.
Once again, look at the guys program. I think they are having a lot of fun right now and they have some great Michigan players leading the way. There is definitely evidence and you just have to present that and fight real hard and know that you are going to lose some battles, but your going to win some too.