At Casino, Sun Betting On Anne Donovan

Anne Donovan

Anne Donovan was introduced as coach of the Connecticut Sun Thursday. (Michael McAndrews, Hartford Courant / January 3, 2013)

UNCASVILLE —

"There is change everywhere," Sienko said. "The best example right now is Lovie Smith. Nine years in Chicago, got to the Super Bowl, had a winning record. He was let go because he didn't get them to the next step.

"We thought we needed a new voice."

Sienko talked about a new voice. Donovan, too.

"Obviously, this team isn't far off," she said. "Maybe with a different voice and different experience and hopefully a different mind-set will help."

Who is this voice? And what the heck is it saying?

"Where I have used that term in the past was when I left Seattle [Nov. 30, 2007]," Donovan said. "I was at Seattle five years, won a championship, at the end of my tenure I was juggling the Olympic team and staying there to win another championship. I felt like at that point, it was in both mine and Seattle's best interest to have a new voice.

"I can't speak to Mike's case. But in my case, it was just about a freshness. We had reached some goals, it was time for the roster to be turned over a little. It was time for a new voice to be heard in practices and to reiterate maybe even the same goals with just a different way of phrasing it, a different tone to it. I felt sure it was the right decision and I think it worked out for both us."

Donovan won the gold. The Storm won another WNBA title under Brian Adler in 2010.

"Ten years with the same voice," Sienko said of Thibault. "You know how it is. You all were kids. You're parents said the same thing. You leave your house and it's all different because you look at things differently. You hear different stories. There's no ill will toward Mike. He did a great a job. We want our players to have something that is said or done differently to hopefully motivate them to help us get to the next step."

Sienko said he talked to several players and they didn't want to be part of the process of selecting a new coach. They didn't want to have a war among themselves. The captains were told Wednesday and the feedback from the players, Sienko said, has been positive so far.

"Anne's a calm presence, very strategic, plays a little more defense," Sienko said. "I think she's going to be very aggressive in how we're going to attack different teams. Our core group is right on. I think we were one step away. A tweak here or there, I think, is what you need."

Donovan, inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame as a post player and who helped develop a young Lauren Jackson, is excited to be working with league MVP Tina Charles. She's hoping to bring another talented post, Sandrine Gruda, back to the Sun. She's also excited to coach at Mohegan Sun Arena, which she says is the toughest place for a visiting team to play in the WNBA.

It's funny. If Nykesha Sales, who had scored 32 points against Donovan's Storm in Game 2 of the 2004 Finals, had hit a wide-open three at the end, Thibault would have his WNBA title and there probably would have been no press conference Thursday.

"I remember it like it was yesterday," Donovan said. "With expletives in there, slow-mo, my mouth going, 'Oh, no!' As I stood on the baseline opposite where she took that shot it looked like it was good. We came out of the timeout, talking about how we had one foul to give. We didn't get the foul. We switched on a screen we weren't going to switch on. The player who killed us all game long got a wide open look."

Sales hit the side of the backboard. Serendipity?

"Game 3 was serendipity for me," Donovan said.

"Yeah, they kicked our butt in Game 3," Sienko said.

Anne Donovan became the first woman to coach a team to a WNBA title. The Sun are betting she can do it again.

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