As Joanne P. McCallie was putting together her first recruiting class as University of Maine women’s basketball coach in 1993, she made a long drive to Bristol, Connecticut, to meet with a recruit and her family.

The player was Stacey Porrini, and McCallie, now the head coach at Duke, knew Porrini could make a difference for the Black Bears.

“We went to her home, met her wonderful mother and father, her little sister and brother,” said McCallie. “We had a wonderful Italian dinner. I could tell we had connected. We enjoyed each other and it was pretty clear she was going to choose UMaine. It was a wonderful visit.”

Porrini did go to Maine, and she became one of the program’s cornerstones as the Black Bears grew into an America East power. On Tuesday, Stacey Porrini Clingan died after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 42.

News of her death spread quickly through the Maine women’s basketball family.

“She fought this thing so hard for so long,” said McCallie. “She was truly a leader in her community, doing a lot of things for cancer (research). She was a fabulous person and a critical person, for us, just in terms of developing us so we could do special things. She was a program leader, a committed leader, kind of a rock for everyone. And that’s why it’s so difficult for all of us. She was always there for everybody.”

Clingan, who graduated in 1997 with a degree in elementary education, still ranks 17th on Maine’s career scoring list with 1,128 points and fifth in rebounding with 929. At 6-foot-4, she was a prolific shot blocker, with 185 in 117 career games. She is still tied with Jamie Cassidy for most blocked shots in a game (seven) and a season (79).

A three-time all-conference selection, Clingan was part of three NCAA tournament teams for the Black Bears. Upon graduating, she became a first-grade teacher.

UMaine Coach Amy Vachon, who played with Clingan for one year, recalled Clingan’s kind heart.

“I will always remember how she took the time to get to know me and take care of me,” Vachon said in a statement released by the school. “She had the biggest heart of anyone I have ever known. She was dealt a tough hand, being diagnosed with cancer at such a young age. But watching her fight it was truly inspirational.

“Life isn’t always fair and in this case it definitely was not. But Stacey was the strongest, bravest and kindest soul I have ever known and I am fortunate to have had her in my life.”

Clingan is survived by her husband, Bill, and two children, Donovan and Olivia.

“When we were recruiting her,” said McCallie, “we were looking for kids who believed in what we were trying to do, we were looking for kids who had heart and soul.

“It’s overwhelming to think she is gone.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

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