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Donovan quietly goes about her way

By Mike DiMauro

Publication: The Day

Published May 26. 2013 4:00AM

Mohegan

Kara Lawson took the microphone Saturday night moments before the Connecticut Sun began their 11th summer here, giving the crowd brevity and levity before she gave them 23 points:

"Be loud, be passionate and boo when appropriate," Lawson said, drawing cheers and chuckles.

And then the 7,672 she addressed proved good listeners, booing Bill Laimbeer, the Liberty coach and once and future nemesis of New England basketball. The Mohegan Maestro (otherwise known as sound engineer Mike O'Farrell) played the Imperial March, Darth Vader's theme, as Laimbeer walked in, issuing a wry grin and a wave or two.

No one really noticed Anne Donovan had entered the arena a few minutes earlier.

Kind of the way the Sun's new voice likes it.

And then we learned that sometimes the new voice is no voice at all.

This is Anne Donovan: calmer than Sunday morning on a Saturday night, even during her debut in Neon Uncasville, which turned out to be a night for all to shout, "Give me Liberty … or give me the Sun by 12."

Classic Anne: The clock read 2 minutes, 40 seconds in the fourth period and Sun 75, Liberty 67. Closing time. A good possession here, a stop there and cue Kool & The Gang, celebrate good times, come on. But that's when Kelsey Griffin, during an otherwise encouraging evening, jacked up a horrific 3-pointer early in the shot clock.

Miss.

Liberty ball.

Pause to consider former Sun coach Mike Thibault's potential reaction. Head in his hands? Maybe. An absorbing "why do we do that?" to no one in particular? Perhaps. Summon a sub for Kelsey? Possibly.

This much we know: It would have been emotional and entertaining.

Donovan, meanwhile, sat stoically, as if waiting for church services to begin. She clapped briefly for some defense. No rage. No exasperation. No problem.

"That's me," Donovan said, following her team's 81-69 victory. "Come game time, they're ready. The work is done. They need to know I have the confidence in them to work it out.

"This is a very intellectual, composed bunch. I walked in the locker room and thought, 'do they ever get juiced?' My goal is to keep the pieces moving."

That and to make sure Lawson shoots as often as possible.

Lawson: "For our group, the training wheels are off. This is the fourth year for us together. We played so many young players (in previous seasons), now we're in the fourth year. I think we understand (the opponent) is going to make a run. I didn't think we flinched."

Their coach sure didn't.

Kind of like before the game. Bob Heussler, the Sun's play-by-play voice, asked Donovan about nerves.

"She looks real nervous," someone said, noting Donovan looked about as concerned as someone sitting on the porch pondering the sunset.

"I wear it well," Donovan said, assuring all listeners the jitters were jitter-bugging.

Yes. Even Donovan, a WNBA title and Olympic gold in tow, was feeling it before the game. It's just that she would have been a candidate for the "never let them see you sweat" deodorant commercial.

"This is what I love to do," Donovan said. "It never becomes old hat. No game is a game when I'm not going to be anxious."

We're all still getting to know Anne in this season of newness. So far: She likes defense, sushi, and Grey Goose. That makes her 3-for-3 on the scorecard.

Not all, however, was new Saturday night. Good to know that team president Mitchell Etess was in full throat in the corner critiquing officials, the crowd was into it and old friend Scott Hawk, the Sun's former assistant coach, was in the house scouting.

Coach Hawk, still entertaining as ever, sat adjacent to the Liberty bench. In Hawk's old seat was Jen Gillom, the new assistant coach, who slapped hands with Donovan with a few seconds remaining Saturday night.

That's when Donovan cracked a smile, too. Anne Donovan won the press conference the day she was hired and won her first game Saturday night.

Meet the new voice, not like the old voice.

But the same result.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

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