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Sun find a star in Donovan

By Ned Griffen

Publication: The Day

Published 01/04/2013 12:00 AM
Updated 01/03/2013 11:56 PM

Mohegan - Anne Donovan didn't plan on going back to the WNBA. The Jersey Girl stepped down as the New York Liberty's head coach in 2010 and returned home to lead the Seton Hall women's basketball team.

The plan changed, however, when the Connecticut Sun contacted Donovan about their vacant head coaching job.

"When I took the job at Seton Hall, I really felt at that time that it would be my next and last stop," Donovan said Thursday during a press conference introducing her as Connecticut's new head coach. "But when you talk about the Connecticut Sun and you talk about basketball here at the Mohegan Sun ... this roster, this leadership ... it's just an opportunity that's too exciting to pass up.

"At that point in time (2010), I thought that Seton Hall was it, but I'm very excited that the path has changed and that there are new challenges ahead. And I look forward to this opportunity very much."

Donovan, 51, is accustomed to success as a player and a coach. A member of the Naismith Hall of Fame Class of 1995, Donovan coached USA Basketball to the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She also led the Seattle Storm to the 2004 WNBA title over, ironically, the Sun.

The 6-foot-8 Donovan, a three-time All-American at Old Dominion (1981-83), becomes the team's second head coach since the franchise relocated to Mohegan Sun in 2003. She replaces Mike Thibault, who was fired in November after the Sun failed to win a WNBA championship during his 10-year tenure.

Thibault, who was recently named head coach and general manager of the Washington Mystics, was an asssitant on Donovan's 2008 Olympic coaching staff

"We're thrilled today, that's the easiest way to put it," Sun vice president and general manager Chris Sienko said. "Change is always difficult, but we're moving forward for the future. Our objective is very clear, and that's to win championships. ... We felt we needed a new voice, and this is the direction we headed.

"(Team CEO) Mitchell (Etess) had asked for a short list (of coaching candidates), and, as he said, there was one name at the top the entire time. … We felt that says a lot about our program that she'd want to come back here and help lead this team to a championship."

Donovan, who will complete her third season at Seton Hall, has coached four different WNBA teams over 10 seasons. She has a 167-150 record and just two losing seasons. One of those losing seasons occurred when she took over the New York Liberty halfway through the 2009 year.

The Storm won the WNBA title in Donovan's second season. New York finished 22-12 in her second year and reached the Eastern Conference final.

Donovan has some familiarity with the Sun. She coached guard Kara Lawson at the Olympics as well as guard Kalana Greene during the latter's 2010 rookie season in New York. She inherits a relatively young team that finished first in the Eastern Conference last season (25-9).

"You look at this roster, the talent, the depth," Donovan said. "Just look at the track record and successes that they've had. I haven't had much of an opportunity to get to know the girls yet. … But I can tell you that it's (a title) not that far off. I believe that with maybe a difference voice and different experiences and hopefully a different mind set will help."

n.griffen@theday.com

THE DONOVAN FILE

Three-time All-American at Old Dominion (1981-83)

Naismith National Player of the Year (1983)

Won Olympic gold medals as a player (1984, 1988) and as a head coach (2008)

Inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame (1995)

Part of inaugural class inducted into Women's Basketball Hall of Fame (1999)

Coached Seattle Storm to WNBA Championship (2004)

Coached three teams to seven WNBA playoff appearances in 10 years

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