Former Duke coach Gail Goestenkors has been told she is not a candidate for the Blue Devils' women's basketball head-coaching position, despite former players saying she has a strong base of support from the program's alumnae. The job opened Thursday when Joanne P. McCallie stepped down after 13 seasons because of uncertainty over an extension as she entered the final year of her contract.
A source told ESPN that on Friday, Duke's search committee informed Goestenkors, who ran the program from 1992 to 2007, that the school wanted to go a different direction and not look to the past.
Contacted by ESPN, Goestenkors confirmed that and said she did not get an interview. Goestenkors, 57, said she was disappointed but wished the school the best. She said she is still very eager to coach again at the college level and would pursue future opportunities.
Several former Duke players had already added their signatures to a letter of support for Goestenkors' return. Dr. Georgia Schweitzer Beasley, a two-time ACC player of the year and starter on Duke's 1999 national runner-up team coached by Goestenkors, drafted the letter. She said former players from four decades had signed it, as had several other Duke alumni and season-ticket holders.
Beasley, now a surgeon who works for Duke Health in Durham, North Carolina, said, "The letter said we support the program, of course, but we also support Gail returning. We know there will be a lot of qualified candidates, and we understand them wanting to interview others. We weren't trying to tell them what to do, but we wanted to show our support for Gail to return.
"People here just love her. I can't even tell you how many people, when I contacted them about the letter, would write back with so much enthusiasm, and then sent me other names of people who wanted to be on it. The list kept growing."
However, Duke ruled out Goestenkors before Beasley had a chance to send the letter to the athletic department.
Rochelle Parent, who like Beasley played at Duke from 1997 to 2001 and who currently works for the city of Durham, also signed the letter. Parent said of Duke's decision to not even interview Goestenkors, "It reeks of lack of due diligence. If they are serious about really considering what's best for the program going forward, for her not to be in the conversation less than 24 hours later ... even the appearance of that is not good."
Duke had been to the NCAA tournament just once before Goestenkors' arrival in 1992 and had won at least 20 games in a season just one time.
In Goestenkors' 15 seasons, the Blue Devils went 396-99, advanced to the Women's Final Four four times, made nine other NCAA tournament appearances, and won eight ACC regular-season titles and five ACC tournament championships. She was ACC coach of the year seven times.
Goestenkors left Duke for Texas in 2007 and was an assistant for the gold-winning U.S. Olympic team in 2008. But she didn't advance past the NCAA tournament's second round in five seasons with the Longhorns before stepping aside, citing burnout and fatigue, in 2012. Since then, Goestenkors has coached as an assistant in the WNBA, done color commentary for women's basketball and been a coaching consultant.
In 2015, Goestenkors was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tennessee.