The Duke Blue Devils have to replace head women’s basketball coach Joanne P. McCallie after she resigned Thursday after 13 seasons at the helm.
McCallie led Duke to four straight Elite Eights from 2010 to 2013, but failed to advance past the Sweet Sixteen in her final seven seasons, and even missed the NCAA Tournament in 2015-16 and 2018-19.
Duke is looking for someone to jump start its prestigious program and ESPN’s Mechelle Voepel listed Arizona Wildcats coach Adia Barnes as one of the 10 best potential candidates.
“At 43, she seems in a really good place at her alma mater, where she’s 68-60 in four seasons, but just had her best year,” Voepel wrote. “The Wildcats were 24-7 and finished fourth in the Pac-12. Barnes’ success on the court has prompted greater interest by the fan base as well. The former WNBA player is a California native whose coaching career has been on the West Coast. So a lot points to her staying put, but Duke is a rare opportunity. And she might not be the only current Pac-12 coach in the mix for the Blue Devils job, as UCLA’s Cori Close also could be a candidate.”
Leaving for Duke would certainly represent a pay raise for Barnes, whose base salary in 2019-20 was $400,000. McCallie’s was $1.3 million, according to the Raleigh News & Observer. (Barnes’ husband Salvo Coppa is her top assistant coach and would be in line for a pay raise at Duke as well.)
But Barnes has said before that money is not her motivation for coaching, and she has poured her heart and soul into building up the Arizona program, which has made tremendous strides since she was hired in 2016.
And 2020-21 should be its best year yet. With their three best players returning, including All-American guard Aari McDonald, the Wildcats are expected to be a top-10, maybe top-5, team in the country.
It’s hard to imagine Barnes walking away from that, even if Duke can offer a giant payday. However, this shows that Arizona needs to find a way to pony up and pay Barnes like the elite coach she’s proven to be, or else she’ll continually be mentioned for other head coaching positions whether she’s even interested in them or not.