By Sullivan Bortner, Duke Sports Information Intern
DURHAM, N.C.-- Entering his 39th year as a basketball coach, Jim Corrigan returned to Duke this past January, the place where his collegiate career began more than 40 years ago. In his new role with the women’s basketball program, Corrigan serves as a special assistant to head coach Joanne P. McCallie.
Corrigan walked-on to the Duke men’s team in the late 1970s during the tenure of head coach Bill Foster, eventually earning a scholarship by the time he graduated from the university in 1980. At that time, Corrigan was not entirely sure what he wanted to do with his life, but it did not take long for the realm of coaching to come calling.
Following graduation, Corrigan remained in Durham, splitting his time between working for a local real estate agent during the day and a restaurant at night. It was at this time that he was approached by a friend of his, a high school basketball coach and former Duke player, and asked to help out with his program at Northern Durham High School. Corrigan, still soul-searching in a sense, decided to take his friend up on it. He would work his day job, coach for three hours or so, and then report to duty for his nightly gig.
After two years, Corrigan moved on to coach junior varsity basketball at Bishop McGuinness Memorial High School, his alma mater. Corrigan became the head coach shortly thereafter, a title which he held for four years before leaving to coach collegiately at the College of William & Mary as a graduate assistant. From that point, the next step would lead to Old Dominion, a place Corrigan would learn to call home for next 23 years.
Corrigan arrives at Duke as an assistant on the women’s side following his two-plus decades of tenure at Old Dominion. However, almost his entire career took place on the men’s side until he made the switch five years ago out of necessity from his previous university. Corrigan was asked if he would be willing to switch over to the women’s game at Old Dominion after an assistant left to take a Division II head job, leaving the program with a pressing need for an experienced assistant.
With the bulk of his career taking place coaching men’s basketball, Corrigan never viewed the possibility of returning to Duke as a legitimate possibility.
“I never really thought it would happen, because of the way my career went and the things that were happening here,” said Corrigan, referring to the rise of Coach Mike Krzyzewski during the onset of his career. “But it worked out and it’s really cool to be back. It’s a very different place than it was back when I was at school.”
In the time that Corrigan has been away from Duke, more has changed than just the university. Over the past 38 years, Corrigan has evolved as a coach and learned a significant amount throughout the ups-and-downs of his career.
“The thing I bring is a wealth of experience and lots of different kinds of experiences,” said Corrigan, referring to what he aims to bring to the Duke staff. “My job is to enhance what everybody else does… Because I’ve been in lots of situations, good and bad.”
Over the past several months, this task has been becoming clearer for Corrigan as he familiarizes himself with the way things work within the Duke coaching staff. In re-orienting himself with the Duke program, Corrigan feels the assimilation process was managed extremely well by McCallie.
“She’s made it really easy,” said Corrigan. “She’s a terrific coach and she’s done a phenomenal job here. My goal is to enhance her ability to do her job and help everybody get this program to where it is capable of going.”
Throughout his career, Corrigan has indeed gained a surplus of experience to aid him in accomplishing this goal. His background has also allowed him to develop and mold his respective coaching philosophy.
“To be a really good team, you have to be very selfless,” Corrigan said. “The challenge is getting a group of 12-15 ‘me’ people to come in and become ‘us’ people, ‘we’ people, team oriented. The thing about being a part of a team is you’re a part of something bigger than yourself. You can accomplish way more than you could ever do individually.”
Instilling this philosophy will be one of a handful of tasks for the Baltimore native, who moved to Winston-Salem, NC when he was only nine years old. Now a veteran in the industry, Corrigan will seek to mentor the Blue Devils into buying into this mindset, similarly to the way in which he was mentored in between the lines of Cameron Indoor Stadium so many years ago. Now, as he approaches his 60th birthday, Corrigan is not worried about the next step. Rather, he is focused on adding as much value to the Duke program as he possibly can and bringing a group of 18-22-year-old girls together as a team.
“I’m just glad to be a part of a really good program, be a part of something good, and see if we can get to the promised land,” Corrigan said.