Category Archives: Anne Donovan

Tina Charles Says She Just Wanted To Go Home

by Categorized: Anne Donovan, Connecticut Sun, WNBA Date:

So here’s what it comes down to. Tina Charles, a former rookie of the year and MVP for the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun, said Tuesday her decision to ask for a trade was fueled primarily by her urge to play closer to her birthplace, be close to her family and play [for a championship] in Madison Square Garden.

That is not a hard concept to understand. What’s harder is understanding what took her so long to tell the Sun and what caused the breakdown in communication that led to it.

“I don’t want to be a part of a team where names pop off of a page,” Charles said from Russia in a conference call. “I want to be with a team where our entire presence is felt. I know Bill Laimbeer [the Liberty coach] will allow that to happen.”

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The Day After The Explosion Of The Sun

by Categorized: Anne Donovan, Connecticut Sun, Uncategorized Date:

What a most interesting day in the history of the Connecticut Sun. Some thoughts:

* I don’t believe I have ever seen a relationship between a star player and a team end as acrimoniously as what went down the last two weeks with Tina Charles and the Sun. The Sun is very, very angry with the way Charles conducted herself, last year as a player and this year as a restricted free agent. They believe she did not give good effort on many occasions, was not a leader and, perhaps worst of all. misled them about her intention to play for them this season. Remember. this is a team who tried to build around a former rookie of the year and MVP. That is one helluva thing to say, She gets her chance to answer back this afternoon in a teleconference at 2:30. That should be very interesting.

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Will The Sun Shine On Chiney Ogwumike? Donovan Says “Not So Fast”

by Categorized: 2014 WNBA Draft, Anne Donovan, Chiney Ogwumike, Connecticut Sun, WNBA Date:

After finishing in last place overall in the WNBA last season, with a roster depleted with injuries, the Connecticut Sun was faced with a conundrum unlike anything it had seen in many years.
The Sun knew they had to change the look of a team whose smile had turned upside down. And change has come frequently during a offseason delayed for months by the negotiation of the league’s new collective bargaining agreement.
But on Monday, the Sun roster will change even more dramatically when it makes the first pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft at the Mohegan Sun Arena. They also hold the 11th pick, acquired from the Los Angeles Sparks in exchange for the talented, but disinterested, Sandrine Gruda, the star French center, who had not played in Connecticut for two years.
“[Gruda] was clear she did not want to come to Connecticut,” Sun coach Anne Donovan said. “We felt this was our opportunity to get some trade value from her.
And with the first pick, it is expected the Sun will select Stanford’s dynamic, personable All-American Chiney Ogwumike, although Dovonan, perhaps on orders from the league, perhaps to heighten the drama, was decidedly coy about the team’s intentions.
“Odyssey Sims [the Baylor guard] is quite the player,” Donovan said.  Everybody who thinks that it’s a foregone conclusion that Chiney Ogwumike is going to be here with us, well, we’d love to have Chiney Ogwumike and  we’d love to have Odyssey.  It just depends on guard or post, truthfully.”
Truthfully, the Sun need Ogwumike more than Sims. They have no classic power forward to take pressure of Tina Charles, who despite dominating again in rebounding did not have a stellar season following her MVP in 2013.
Ogwumike, the Pac-12 player of the year and a relentless rebounder, seems to snap perfectly into that place.
“She’s very coachable.  She’s shown great improvement every year at Stanford,” Donovan said. “She played internationally for USA.  She’s won gold medals with our national team.  She’s done all the right things to continue to grow her game.  She’s shown a hunger to get better as she does it.”
Although she was raised in Houston, and has a decidedly free-spirited west coach vibe, Ogwumike said she would welcome being selected by Connecticut.
“You know, I don’t like jumping the gun or anything, but you know what, one thing I know about Connecticut is that they’re huge women’s basketball fans,” Ogwumike said at last week’s Final Four in Nashville. “I’m a people person. I think that organization [the Sun] is great. The players on the team are great. The fans; I feel like a place like that, I would thrive. … If it [the draft pick] happens to be in Connecticut, I’ll be a happy girl.”

The idea that Asjha Jones would reclaim her power forward spot, after taking last year off, was dashed when she injured her Achilles in Europe. Her replacement, Mistie Bass, signed as a free agent with Phoenix. And Kelsey Griffin is more of combo forward than classic power post.
“Chiney is  a fantastic player and I think would be a great grab for Connecticut because I think they need that help in the postgame, especially with not having Asjha Jones coming back,” said Carolyn Peck, ESPN’s draft analyst. “She fits the speed, is a post that you need in the WNBA.  She brings great rebounding inside for Connecticut.  I think she would be a great fit.
“Now, for me, you also would have to consider Odyssey Sims because I think that Odyssey is a point guard, the best point guard in the college game, and I think she is so ready.  I think that Coach Donovan would have to consider do you pass up on that.”
But the Sun has already made changes at guard, trading Kara Lawson to Washington in a three-team deal with Atlanta that brought Alex Bentley to the Sun. And they reached back to re-sign Katie Douglas, a lynchpin of two Sun conference champions, who has tortured them for years in Indiana.
“I think, all in all, for what Connecticut needs, I think Chiney would surely suit the Sun,” Peck said.
To help bolster the post, the Sun also offered free-agent deals to Kelley Cain, a 6-6 center who played collegiately at Tennessee, and 6-2 Keisha Hampton, the former DePaul star.
What’s certain is the the Tulsa Shock, who choose second, will take the player the Sun passes on.
“We’re going to do the opposite of what [the Sun] does,” Shock coach Fred Williams said. “Connecticut has the first call on that.  But either player on that end is a good find and good pick.”
San Antonio seems interested in UConn’s Stefanie Dolson with the third pick, leaving Notre Dame’s Kayla McBride, Alyssa Thomas of Maryland and Bria Hartley for the New York Liberty and Fever to choose from at 4 and 5.
“I don’t think we have an Elena Delle Donne or Brittney Griner in this class, who are game changers.  But we have a lot of impact players,” ESPN’s LaChina Robinson said. “You could look across the board, especially at the top five, some of the players we’ve talked about all season; Ogwumike, Sims, McBride and Thomas.  They’re impact players.
“You may not have big stars, but it’s definitely not a letdown at all [from last year] because these are players the fans have become familiar with over time.  I think they will be watching to see how they perform at the next level.  I think there’s tremendous depth in this class.”

Would The Sun Trade Tina Charles? Not Likely, Not Impossible

by Categorized: Anne Donovan, Chris Sienko, Connecticut Sun, Tina Charles, WNBA Date:

Management of the Connecticut Sun say it will not consider trading center Tina Charles, the 2012 MVP and league rebounding record-setter, even there is reason to believe she might not object to a deal.
“I don’t know that’s the case [that Charles is unhappy in Connecticut],” said Chris Sienko, the Sun general manager. “Our expectations and our druthers is that she will play here. If she finds a situation she seems to like better, we’ll look at it for her – if it works for us.
“But that [a deal] would have to involve a highly significant return.”
Sun coach Anne Donovan said the team hasn’t considered moving their best player.
“Her value is through the roof,” said Donovan. “But I will say that change [the new coaching staff] is harder for some people than others. But she [Charles] was one of those who struggled the most with the change.”
Charles averaged 18.0 and 10.1 rebounds with 17 double-doubles before shutting herself down with five games remaining in the season because of her aches and pains, ironically after a 16-point, 13-rebound game in Phoenix.

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Donovan Honored For Charitable Service

by Categorized: Anne Donovan, WNBA Date:

  Connecticut Sun coach Anne Donovan has been named the 2013 Neumann University Institute for Sports, Spirituality and Character Development Award recipient.

Donovan will be presented with the award Tuesday night and is the first woman to be so rewarded. The Coaches vs. Cancer of Philadelphia received the award in 2012 while former Philadelphia Flyers captain Keith Primeau was recognized in 2011.

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Looking Back At The Connecticut Sun Season

by Categorized: Allison Hightower, Anne Donovan, Chris Sienko, Connecticut Sun, WNBA Date:

After the season finally ended Sunday with an overtime win over Indiana, Connecticut Sun coach Anne Donovan admitted what was widely assumed.

“Among the frustrations that I can share was that my expectations were really high that the transition would go a lot smoother than it did,” said Donovan, who replaced Mike Thibault in January.
“Once all the injuries started to pile up, you wonder why your karma is so bad.”
Here’s a look back – and ahead.
Lottery Aspirations
The worst record in the league assures of the best mathematical chance to secure the first pick in the 2014 Draft, which likely would be Stanford’s Chiney Ogwumike. The WNBAhas not announced when the lottery will be held.
“But we need much more than a top pick,” Donovan said. “We definitely could use more veteran help. We have a lot to do this off-season.”
Charles Puts Up Numbers
Coming off her MVP season, Tina Charles again led the Sun in scoring (18.0) and rebounding (10.1). She added 17 double-doubles and has 80 in just four seasons. And she scored at least 20 points with 10 rebounds in 10 her 29 games before sitting with five games left because of injuries.
Still, Charles never meshed with those assigned to play in place of Asjha Jones. And one the most interesting things Donovan said after Sunday’s finale was how hard the Sun seemed to play without Charles on the floor as it ended the year 3-2.
“We played pretty well at times without Tina on the floor,” Donovan said. “And that’s something I need to take note of and probably [a tactic] I didn’t trust enough this season.”
Would the Sun think about trading Charles in the off-season for the right package of players and draft picks? Might the Sun trade any of their players?
Chris Sienko, the Sun general manager, would not say there were any untouchables on the team.

Most improved
Allison Hightower and Kelsey Griffin emerged as mainstream players. Hightower was named to her first All-Star team and Griffin, who came off a great winter in Australia, was indefatigable under very adverse decisions. Both should be important components of the team as it moves forward.
Wasted picks
One of Thibault’s shortcomings was the over-reliance on too many international players who contributed nothing to the team in the last three seasons. Thibault’s more recent experiments, French center Sandrine Gruda (13th pick in 2007) and Spanish forward Alba Torrens (3rd round 2009), have been no-shows during the time they were projected to help. And with the World Championship coming in 2014, there is no guarantee either will play for the Sun next year. The time has come to get what they can for them and move on.
Biggest loss
Jones’ decision not to play for the Sun this season set into motion the chain of events that doomed their season. Jones told Sun management she was resting chronic injuries. Sienko said last week he’s convinced Jones’ explanation for her absence was legitimate.
But Jones was a big advocate of Thibault’s. And there is no guarantee she will return next season, even if healthy. One thing is certain: She needs to tell the Sun as soon as possible if she plans to honor her contract. And if she doesn’t, she must be traded.
Losing Lawson
After her most productive WNBA season in 2012, Lawson played only nine games, none after July 19. She scored 124 points in 271 minutes. She was bothered by back and knee issues and gone for long stretches to be with her ailing father in Virginia. Despite signing a three-year extension in 2012, it seems her time with the team is over, as well. The Sun may be able to get a nice draft pick or player for her, perhaps from the Washington Mystics.
Free agency
Charles, Hightower, Griffin and Kalana Greene are restricted free agents. There is little chance the organization would let them sign with another team without matching the offer, which they are allowed to do. But whether they bring back unrestricted free agents Mistie Bass and Tan White is another issue, one that likely won be resolved until the Sun finds out what its draft placement is. And nothing can take place until a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is reached.
The Sun’s 10 wins were six less than their previous low. This will be the first time they will be a part of the draft lottery and it’s the first time they finished the season with the league’s worst record. They won only two of 17 road games.
The Sun played their final five games with eight or fewer players. They had just seven available for Sunday’s finale once White suffered a broken finger on her left hand. The lost 77 manpower games to injuries this season and had a full 11-man roster available just twice in 34 games.

Worst Season In Sun History Ends Today

by Categorized: Allison Hightower, Anne Donovan, Chris Sienko, Connecticut Sun Date:

   A season that really never had a chance to begin ends Sunday for the Connecticut Sun against the Indiana Fever in the regular-season finale at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

    In terms of defeats and disappointment, the franchise suffered from start to a finish that leaves them at the bottom of the WNBA. Their 24 losses already are the most in the history of the team.

  Appropriately, it will end with just seven players, the result of injuries that laid the team bare before training camp began in May. Watching the season end in street clothes will be a creditable starting five: Tan White, Kara Lawson, Allie Hightower, Tina Charles and Tan White.

  “I thought we were a playoff caliber team at the start of the season. But I don’t want the injuries to be a big excuse,” said Chris Sienko said. “We want to take a look at the players we have, how they played together, whether they were able to play together within Anne Donovan’s system.”

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Auriemma’s Return Is Opportunity Lost For Others

by Categorized: Anne Donovan, Carol Callan, Geno Auriemma, UConn women's basketball, USA Basketball Date:

  The selection of Geno Auriemma to a second term as coach of USA Basketball’s women’s national team is the latest historic item on the Hall of Famer’s resume.

   The coach of eight national champions at UConn is the first in the sport’s history to be invited to return to its most pressure-filled job.

  “It’s nice that he would sacrifice his golf game for the good of the country,” Diana Taurasi joked.

   While Auriemma’s return has been generally hailed, it represents somewhat of a surprise to some and a disappointment to others who aspired to replace him.

  “I don’t know what he may have been thinking, but I imagine it’s a lot like what they say about childbirth,” said Connecticut Sun coach Anne Donovan, whom Auriemma replaced in 2009 after the USA won gold in Beijing. “As you are delivering the child, some women say they are never going to have another one.

  “For me, I was really happy to just have had the experience. You have the gold medal and then you move on.”

  Still, the job and all of its inherent pressures, was something many women’s basketball coaches covet. And college coaches such Baylor’s Kim Mulkey and South Carolina’s Dawn Staley and WNBA coaches Mike Thibault, Brian Agler, Cheryl Reeve, Dan Hughes and Lin Dunn, among others, all possessed the credentials to assume they would be candidates.

   The problem was, Jerry Colangelo, chairman of USA Basketball, and Carol Callan, the manager of the women’s program, had decided from the start they wanted to replicate a environment of continuity similar to what exists on the men’s side. Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski is serving his third straight term.

 “We find success when we have our players repeat, and as our committee started to talk about this choice of a coach moving forward, we felt continuity was important, and when we asked Geno to do this again and he agreed, we were thrilled,” Callan said.

  “The men obviously have found great success with Coach K, so I think when you’re looking at what’s best for USA Basketball and what you need to do to continue to win gold medals, we felt this was what we needed to do, to have Geno do this again, represent us again as the coach, and work with our players.”

   Thibault, coach and GM of the Washington Mystics, was Donovan’s assistant for the 2006 World Championship and 2008 Olympic team. He considers Auriemma a friend and is happy for him. During his 10 years as Connecticut Sun coach, Thibault often talked to Auriemma about the game and its players.

  But while Thibault understands Auriemma’s appointment, and the philosophy that laid the ground work, he says he is somewhat disappointed that another coach wasn’t given the chance to lead the national team.

  Thibault pointed out that Auriemma was the fifth different coach to lead the United States to gold in 2012, joining Anne Donovan (2008), Van Chancellor (2004), Nell Fortner (2000) and VanDerveer (1996). And he felt a sixth would have been able to do the same thing.

 “It doesn’t appear that other people are going to get opportunities on a regular basis,” Thibault said. “I understand why we got to this point, because the men were struggling and keeping Coach K for a number of Olympics brought consistency to the program. I get that. It’s just hard for me to think other people lilely aren’t going to get the chance to do something like that.”

  Colangelo, the former general manager and owner of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, whose son Bryan is the former president of the Toronto Raptors, is one of basketball’s most respected administrators. He said his major goal after coming to USA Basketball in 2005 was to build programs that would be able to build upon themselves.

  “We have a structure now, we have a program,” Colangelo said. “Coach K has done a tremendous job [with the men]. And I feel the same way about Geno. … The dominance of the women in the world of basketball has been incredible, so there is a little bit of pressure to maintain it. You need the personality who is ready for that kind of fight. He represents that.”

  And USA Basketball was intent to get Auriemma to change his mind about returning, a fact the other candidates began to realize as the summer passed with news of a replacement.

 “If it [the first term] would have been a really bad experience, I wouldn’t want to do it again. But I really had a great time,” Auriemma said. “I really enjoyed the whole four-year experience. And in the end, when it was presented to me the way it was presented, I thought to myself, ‘Yeah, you know, it is something that I really want to do.’

  “I could tell myself all along, ‘no, no, no,’ but when I did really sit down and think about it and was forced to make a decision, it’s something I wanted to do and something that I just felt like I want to do it. That’s the best answer I can give you.”

No More Denying It, Geno Will Run The National Team Again

by Categorized: Anne Donovan, Brian Agler, Connecticut Sun, Geno Auriemma, UConn women's basketball, USA Basketball Date:

Shortly before leaving for the 2012 London Olympics, USA women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma stood with his arms folded at the team’s training facility in Washington, pondering all that had led him there.

   He said he was tired of the world travel. He said he felt enormous pressure to win gold so not to let his nation down. And he said this would be it, that he would be one-and-done as Olympic coach. And he said it in a way befitting his oval office status in the game.
   “If nominated, I will not run,” Auriemma said. “If elected, I will not serve.”
   Until recently, Auriemma steadfastly stuck to that story, dismissing suggestions that he was still USA Basketball’s choice for the job with varying degrees of annoyance.
   That was until a few weeks ago, when the persuasive administrative body of USA Basketball finally prevailed upon UConn’s eight-time national champion coach.
  Friday at Gampel Pavilion, Auriemma, relaxed and enthused again, will be re-introduced as USA Basketball’s women’s senior national coach. This next term will conclude with the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janiero, Brazil.
  USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo, U.S. women’s national team director Carol Callan and USA and WNBA executive Renee Brown will attend.
 Auriemma was traveling Thursday and not available for comment. And his current UConn players, a few of whom may eventually play for him in 2016, were advised to withhold comment until the press conference.
  “I am not as surprised as I would have been had he accepted the job again right away [after the 2012 Olympics],” said Connecticut Sun coach Anne Donovan, who Auriemma succeeded after winning gold in Beijing in 2008. “He is a little more distanced from things now.But more power to him. He did a great job in London. He’s willing to take it on again and he is more than capable of handling it.
 “I don’t know what he was thinking [in the past], but to me it’s similar to what they say about childbirth. As a woman delivers her child, she swears she will never have another one.”
  Auriemma, 59, apparently changed his mind in the short weeks leading up to an appearance at Mohegan Sun on Aug. 22 to present Tina Charles and assistant Jen Gillom with their Olympic rings. Callan was there with him to make the presentation. A source told the Courant Thursday that he had already agreed to take the job by then.
   Until then, Auriemma continued to be publically adamant in saying he was not interested in returning. When approached with the idea shortly before the start of the UConn women’s basketball season back in November 2012 and his answer was quick and to the point.
“One time is enough,” he said. “It was a great experience.”
And as recently as an appearance at the Traverlers Golf Tournament and his own charity golf event at the Hartford Golf Club, by which time rumors were swirling again that USA Basketball really wanted him, he denied he wanted the job.
  But many WNBA coaches considered likely Auriemma successors, Seattle’s Brian Agler, Washington’s Mike Thibault, Minnesota’s Cheryl Reeve and Indiana’s Lin Dunn, all told the Courant they heard the job was being held for Auriemma.
  The coaches all said USA Basketball wanted to build a women’s program to model the one Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski will run for a third time in the upcoming quadrennial.
  Charles, who played for Auriemma at UCon, the 2010 World Championship and  2012 Olympic team, will likely help lead the 2016 team.
“It’s great,” Charles said. “He’s so able to evaluate the game of a player. It’s always an honor to play for him. He’s a great guy. He brought us so many words of wisdom. It was a great time in my life to be a part of that Olympic team.”
  Frankly, one thing that may have delayed his decision was his experience coaching the national team wasn’t everything he’d hoped it would be.
   Some of his collegial ways and methodologies didn’t universally translate at times with the 12 WNBA players he coached, including six of his former UConn stars – Maya Moore, Charles, Asjha Jones, Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird and Swin Cash.
  “It was an adjustment for him and the players,” Gillom said. “Geno realized the mentality for the professional player is totally different. You can’t demand as much from them as you can from a college player. The players needed to adjust to his way; he’s a coach who likes to yell to get his point across. Many players are not receptive to that [as professionals]. And it took a while.”
 Once those issues were resolved in Auriemma’s mind, and once the air returned to his lungs, Gillom thinks he was more than happy to come back.
  “I think all he needed to do was get away from it for awhile,” said Sun assistant Jen Gillom, who was one of Auriemma’s assistants during his first term. “The closer you are, the more inclined you are to think you want to be away from it all. Then you take a step back and observe. I’ve seen him at some of our [WNBA] games. And he seemed to like it.
 “We all know the college game is much different than the pro game is. But now I think he misses [the USA Basketball] experience. And he changed his mind.”
 Gillom said the delay in hiring the new coach – Auriemma’s first assignment began in April 2009 – was the best sign possible that USA Basketball was trying to convince him to return.
  “He knows the game. He demands a lot from his players,” Gillom said. “And if he doesn’t get that in return, you are not going to play for him. The players know that now. Geno is real and I think the players will understand and respect that. He is who he is. The players know that.”

Sun On Schedule To Set In The West

by Categorized: Anne Donovan, Chris Sienko, Connecticut Sun, Kelsey Griffin, WNBA Date:

  Kelsey Griffin, the former Nebraska All-American in her fourth season, was not happy after Sunday’s 76-66 loss to the New York Liberty, a franchise record 19th of the season.

  Here is why: The juxtaposition of the Sun is startling. They’ve nosedived from one win away from the WNBA Finals in 2012 to the worst record in the league this season.

  “You can’t take any game you’re given in this league for granted,” said Griffin, who led the Sun with a career-high 22 points and 10 rebounds. “There are a lot of players that want to be playing in this league, and can’t, and aren’t, and I feel very privileged to be in this league.
  “I go out and try to play every night with that respect for the game. I’m trying to carry that through until the end of the season.”