Anne Donovan admits much of her day is occupied listening to the little voice inside her head that seems to be on an endless reel.
“Every morning, every minute of every day it’s like, ‘What has happened to us? Why has it happened?,” Donovan said. “I know some fans are probably looking at me and thinking ‘What did you do here?’
“But I have strong faith and I believe everything happens for a reason.”
Donovan has been part of winning and losing cultures. She won a WNBA title in Seattle and a gold medal in the 2008 Summer Olympics. But she also coached Seton Hall through three losing seasons.
She knows winning has as much to do with belief as losing does and that thriving programs build positivity as much as talented depth.
So after the Connecticut Sun lost a third straight game Sunday in Washington, Dovovan held an impromptu team meeting. Her last-place team was 6-15. Essentially, there was nothing more to lose.
What she heard pleased her.
“It was nice for me to see how much it bothered them,” Donovan said. “This team is stoic, so it’s hard sometimes to read what they are feeling.”
What Donovan didn’t hear was a peep from rookie Kelly Faris, the team’s No. 1 draft pick from UConn. And that shouldn’t have surprised her, either.
“The older players handled most of the stuff,” Faris said. “It’s different for me now. You are not in same position as you were in college. You need to know where to fit in, when you speak and when you don’t.”
Last season, Faris was the emotional core of UConn’s national champion. But in the first 21 games this season she felt she hadn’t done anything to justify expressing a public opinion.
And then came Wednesday at the Mohegan Sun Arena. Looking for a combination to help get the Sun off to a quicker start in games, Donovan gave Faris her first pro start against the Atlanta Dream.
The guard scored a career-high 11 points in a career-high 34 minutes with a career-high seven rebounds. She was 4-of-4 from the field, including three three-pointers.
She first helped the Sun to 28 first-quarter points and 54 first-half points, but season-highs for the team. And at the end, she helped the Sun hold on a 88-86 win.
“Oh gosh, she’s just so composed at both ends of the floor,” Donovan said of Faris. “She gave up some shots [on offense], but the ones she took she knocked down with such composure.
“It was great Atlanta sprinting out [defensively] at the end of the game, trying to get to her before she took a shot. She’s on their scouting report, moving forward, for the next game I’m sure.”
That game will be played Friday in Atlanta when the Sun try to take the next step to a postseason berth.
It was great night for many other Connecticut players.
Tina Charles scored 25 points, 21 in the first half. Renee Montgomery, playing with a troublesome left ankle, scored 18 with three three-pointers. Tan White, starting for the injured Allie Hightower (knee), scored a season-high 15 points, including the first game-winner of her basketball career from the left baseline with 0.6 seconds to play. And Mistie Bass scored all nine of her points in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter.
But in Faris, the Sun have a player whose will seems her most remarkable asset. Donovan said she will start againt Friday.
“It was her intensity that earned her [the start],” said Donovan, pointing to the defensive work she did on Washington’s Monique Currie on Sunday. “It’s a Connecticut [UConn] thing. There’s not a lot of rah-rah from those players. It’s business all the way in practice. And it carries over.”
In some respects, it has been a difficult rookie season for Faris. She averaged only 12.3 minutes and 1.6 points prior to Wednesday, shooting 31.6 percent from the field and 21.0 percent from three.
UConn lost only 11 games during her career. Suddenly, her new team had lost 15 of its first 21.
“It’s different, definitely quite an adjustment,” Faris said. “I’ve said it time and time again, I’ve been pretty fortunate and spoiled with the teams I’ve been on, especially the last four years, coming from UConn and all the history it has.
“We do not accept losing. Coming away with a handful of losses while trying to get to the highest level, well, it’s been a struggle. Everyone has their ups and downs; it doesn’t always go my way. It’s good for me to deal with it and it’s all about how you come back and how you react to it. Mentality, you can’t allow it to erode your confidence. You need to look at it as if it is helping.”