Category Archives: Anne Donovan

How Does Renee Montgomery Fit In? Be Careful How You Ask

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

Anne Donovan’s patience clearly wearing thin Sunday after Sunday’s 85-76 win for the Connecticut Sun over Atlanta at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

Seldom does any coach – especially one with a WNBA title and Olympic gold medal – enjoy being asked about how and why they use – or don’t use – players. And that certainly was the case when Donovan was asked what’s been up lately with Renee Montgomery, now in her fifth season with the team.

“As I’ve told Renee, if Alex [Bentley] is in there and does well, Renee probably is not going to get an opportunity,” Donovan said. “That’s how it’s been. Whoever goes in there first, when they play well, they keep the opportunity [to play]. Same thing with Chiney [Ogwumike], same thing with (Kelsey) Bone. It’s not just Renee specific.
“Anybody else have any questions on that? You guys [the media] are looking for something … This is the game of basketball. People play based on production.”

Ok Anne, I think we get the point. It’s the coaches prerogative to play who she wants to play. And its the media’s prerogative to ask why.

But here’s another point:

In the three previous games, Montgomery had played just 15 minutes, including none in the team’s first win of the season, May 23 against Seattle. During last week’s road trip in Indiana and Chicago, which resulted in two defeats and featured a 4-for-25 performance from three-point range, Montgomery played seven minutes in Indiana and eight in Chicago. During those eight minutes, Montgomery was 4-for-5 from the field and scored 11 points.

After playing such a big role in the win Sunday – 18 points in 19 minutes – Montgomery was clearly happy. The former UConn All-American, who had made 210 three-pointers in her first four seasons with the Sun, has been admittedly curious about her role and why it has diminished. But she didn’t want to speculate why.
“Are you trying to get me in trouble?” Montgomery asked. “I don’t want to stir up trouble. I just want to let the way I play speak for itself. I’m not going to try to get into the who, what, where, when or why.
“I just want to work hard and give myself the best chance to be ready when my number is called.”
While Montgomery remains one of the Sun’s potentially potent offense players, it’s her defense and size that has apparently caused the coaching staff to stray.
“It’s very rare that an opponent specifically goes at me [challenges her defensively],” Montogomery. “But I was told that I haven’t caught fire, that I haven’t been making shots and haven’t been playing defense. So now it’s about me doing all of the above.”
Montgomery was inherited from the Mike Thibault era, which now features just four remaining players on the current roster – Montgomery, Kelsey Griffin, Allison Hightower and Danielle McCray.
This new roster is based on bigger guards with more defensive strength and reach. And Bentley, the former Penn State star, was specifically acquired by Donovan in the three-team trade that shipped Kara Lawson to Washington in the offseason.
“I’m looking at Renee for more offense,” Donovan said Sunday. “That’s Renee’s strength – her offense.”
Donovan was forced to shuffle her personnel Sunday because Griffin missed the game with a stomach disorder and the team was coming off back-to-back road games in Thursday and Friday.
She gave forward Kelsey Bone the start and then dipped more liberally into her bench, at least as it concerned Montgomery and Kayla Pedersen, who played nearly 15 minutes after getting just 31 in the previous six games
“Keeping Bone and Chiney [Ogwumike[ fresh, that’s where both the other posts [Pedersen and Kelley Cain, who played 9:35] got minutes,” Donovan said. “And both did a nice job by the way. Alex [Bentley] has been playing point very well, Renee [Montgomery] has been inching her way up there and then Allie [Hightower] got into foul trouble. So it was not really by design. I think by need and by necessity.”

Where and how Montgomery will fit into Donovan’s future plans remain unclear, which Montgomery seems to understand.
“I understand this is a different situation, but I know what I’ve accomplished in the past,” Montgomery said. “I spent the first four years of my career in the WNBA trying to prove myself. Last year was basically lost to injury.
“But I felt I was going to have to reprove myself this season, which happens sometimes after injuries, especially when you have a different coach. I’m just trying to make sure that I’m proving I belong here … It’s different, I admit. I’m technically considered a veteran now, and now I’m in a situation where I need to constant prove myself over and over again.
“I guess it’s good. I didn’t expect this. But I’m just going to do my best to stay ready, whether I play one minute or 40.”


Kelly Faris Trying To Adjust To New Role: Waiting For A Chance

by Categorized: Anne Donovan, Connecticut Sun, Kelly Faris, UConn women's basketball, WNBA Date:

Throughout her successful career as an Indiana high school star and UConn focal point, Kelly Faris has always understood nothing worthwhile has come easy for her.
She has relied on impeccable fundamentals and work habits to compensate for whatever physical skills were lacking. And somehow she has always been able to make it work for herself and her team.
But in her second season with the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun, Faris is facing the first serious roadblock in her career.
On a young, rebuilding team, stocked with many like-talents, she is now the last player on a 12-player depth chart in a rotation that has rarely gone deeper than nine.

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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.”