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Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Two basketball folks who each turned thumbs-down on Michigan State have an open schedule right now thanks to a pair of Duke tournament losses. Jabari Parker and Joanne McCallie are polishing up their surfboards for the long vacation ahead. That's because both Duke basketball teams have already been knocked out of the NCAA tournament.

Parker is the one-and-done "can't miss" blue-chip five-star basketball recruit from Chicago who played Tom Izzo like a fiddle during his highly publicized recruitment two years ago. Do you remember that December day when Parker held the world in his hand for a few hours as he prepared his great announcement? Most experts had Parker coming to MSU, but when it was time to put on the hat, it was a happy day for Dick Vitale. Jabari Parker was going to Duke. Tom Izzo was heading to Plan B.

McCallie is the up-and-coming young coach who took the reins from two-decade veteran Karen Langeland right after the turn of the century to become Head Coach of the Spartan women's team. She cracked her whip and flapped her jaws and seemed to "walk the walk" as she led MSU to the conference championship, a Final Four, and even an appearance in the national championship game. That tee-shirt-making season impressed all of us here in Spartan Country, but even more those folks in Durham, and off went McCallie to her dream job (with the bigger paycheck).

McCallie left somewhat abruptly, as nobody saw the Duke job likely to open up at that time, and hubby John McCallie was processing his arrest for fighting cops at a Florida airport while wifey Joanne just may have been job-shopping. (Sort of like "Peyton Place" without all of the really juicy stuff.) So we were in a bit of a pickle when Suzy Merchant arrived.

And we felt we were hosed when Duke was assigned to the "MSU Pod" in 2009 as a #1-seed, waiting to play us if we could get by the #9, which we did. And when it came time to confront the old coach, our new coach led MSU to one of the most dramatic victories in the history of Spartan Basketball. When Duke got dumped five years ago in Breslin, we knew our real coach was here to stay.

Well, Joanne McCallie can get out the golf clubs now, as her Duke team took their #2-seed into a comfortable setting last weekend, with games on their home court against the #15-seed and the winner of #10-vs-#7. That last one proved too much for the Lady Blue Devils, as Depaul beat Duke in Cameron-Indoor Stadium to send McCallie off on summer vacation.

At least she didn't have to travel far on the trip home after the loss.

So two prominent basketball people, a young male all-star and a middle-aged female coach, both came up short this past weekend with the teams they chose over Michigan State. While the Duke women are back home for the off-season, the MSU women tip-off Tuesday night against North Carolina just down Tobacco Road. And while Jabari Parker has turned in his uniform for the year, his spurned non-teammates have advanced to the Sweet Sixteen to play top-seed Virginia on Friday night.

Maybe McCallie will drive over to the MSU-UNC game tomorrow night. She definitely has a rooting interest. (Then again, maybe not.)

Maybe Parker will travel up to the Big Apple to see the team that beat his team for the league title play the team that he didn't want to play with in the first place. (Or maybe not.)

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