When Anne Donovan coached the USA to the gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, former Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault was one of her assistants.
On Thursday, Donovan, 51, will be named the next coach of the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun, replacing Thibault, who was fired soon after the 2012 playoffs after 10 seasons with the team.
Donovan, currently coach of Seton Hall, will be introduced at a press conference Thursday at 3 p.m. at the Mohegan Sun.
It is not known whether Donovan will finish out the season with Seton Hall or immediately resign her position. The WNBA’s 2013 training camp does not begin until after the completion of the NCAA Division I Final Four in April.
Donovan has already coached four other WNBA teams, the Indiana Fever, Seattle Storm, Charlotte Sting and New York Liberty. Donovan won a WNBA championship in Seattle and is a member of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.
After the Olympics, Donovan joined the Liberty as an assistant coach in the spring of 2009, then took over as interim head coach on July 31, 2009 when Patty Coyle was fired.
Donovan became head coach of Seton Hall in March 2010, but completed the WNBA season in New York before beginning her duties with the Pirates.
Seton Hall has struggled mightily in the Big East, before Donovan and during her 2 ½ seasons, winning just 21 of 53 regular-season games and going 2-30 in the conference since she took over.
With the Sun, Donovan will be reunited with Kara Lawson, who played for her in Beijing. Lawson, who signed a two-year contract extension with Connecticut last season, played an instrumental role in the USA’s win in the gold medal game against Australia.
“There was never any doubt in my mind that she belonged on this team,” Donovan said in the press conference after the game. “I pushed my rear end off to get Kara Lawson on this team. She has been solid gold for us every time she has taken a trip for us: Her leadership, her enthusiasm and her energy whether she is on the bench or on the floor . . . besides the fact the girl can play basketball. She knocked in some big shots tonight. ”
Meanwhile, Thibault, one of the most successful coaches in WNBA history, will take over the Washington Mystics as their coach and GM. Thibault was in New York Wednesday night scouting St. John’s vs. Delaware and refused comment on the news of Donovan’s hiring.
Donovan, 6-8, had a magical college playing career at Old Dominion, leading the Lady Monarches to the AIAW national championship in 1980. She was the first women’s player to win the Naismith Aard and finished her collegiate career with 2,710 points, 1,976 rebounds and 801 blocked shots.
She as a three-time Olympian and earned gold medals as a player in 1984 and 1988 after the USA boycotted the 1980 games in Russia.
Upon her retirement as a player, Donovan became an assistant coach at ODU from 1989–1995 and then head coach at East Carolina from 1995–1997. She moved to the pro ranks briefly (1997-98) in the ABL before coming to the WNBA as an assistant coach for the expansion Indiana Fever. She served as the interim coach there while Nell Fortner lead the Olympic team – with Geno Auriemma on her staff – to the 2000 gold medal.
Donovan, inducted into the Naismith Hall of Game in 1995, then took the Charlotte Sting to the 2001 WNBA Finals as head coach.
In 2003, Donovan was hired as head coach of the Seattle Storm, inheriting a team with Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird. In 2004, after becoming director of player personnel, the Storm won the league championship..
On November 30, 2007, Donovan resigned and on April 28, 2009 was appointed assistant coach of the Liberty. She assumed the title of Interim Head Coach of the Liberty on July 31 when Coyle was fired.