When the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun fired coach Mike Thibault in November, veteran guard Kara Lawson says she did not seek explanation from management, even though the Sun was one win from playing in the championship series.
“I can’t speak for anyone else, but as for me, I didn’t see any need for a change,” Lawson said earlier this week. My immediate reaction was surprise that a change was made.
“But no one that I know approached management for a reason. I didn’t feel like I was owed an explanation; if they wanted to offer one, I would have listened. I know how those things work. I went through three coaching changes in Sacramento [of the WNBA]. Some of them I agreed with, some of them I didn’t. It didn’t change the decision that was made.
Once the decision was made, the decision was made. But none of us were told until after it was announced.”
Lawson enjoyed playing for Thibault and had a tremendous season in 2012, her 10th in the league. Lawson established career-highs in scoring (15.1) and minutes per game (31.4) and signed a three-year extension with the team last August.
But the hiring of Anne Donovan to replace Thibault in January pleases Lawson. Donovan is currently head coach at Seton Hall – which plays No. 3 UConn Saturday at Gampel Pavilion – but will join the Sun after the college season is over.
Donovan coach Seattle to the WNBA title in 2004 and coached the USA to Olympic gold in Beijing in 2008, a team Lawson played for. And it was Lawson’s performance in the gold medal game against Australia that helped make it possible.
“Any time you are a player and there is a new coach coming in, and you are not familiar with that coach, there is the unknown to deal with,” Lawson said. “You don’t know what she is like, what her style is, what is her personality is like? All these things go through your mind.
“But I don’t have that unknown. I know what she wants and expects. It’s good that myself and Kalana Greene [who played for Donovan in with the New York Liberty] already know her. So it’s not entirely new to Anne, either.
“But the reality is, I’m a totally different player than I was five years ago. And she is probably a different coach. So there will still be some growing. But I have a great deal of trust and confidence in me and I have the same for her.”
Donovan speaks almost daily with Sun GM Chris Sienko about the operation of the team.
“Right now, I have to focus on this job [Seton Hall] and Chris and Connecticut knew that when I was hired,” Donovan said.
The Sun added Jen Gillom, a two-time WNBA coach – and 2012 Olympic assistant under Geno Auriemma – as one of Donovan’s two assistants. The other coach will be announced soon.
“I was so excited she [Gillom] was available,” Donovan said. “I trust her and that is so important. We are all working to the same goal. We’ve known each other since the 1980s and a love her as a person.”
Sun guard Renee Montgomery played for Gillom as a rookie with the Minnesota Lynx [in 2009] before being dealt to Connecticut in January 2010.
The Sun have every player under contract from last season except veteran Jessica Moore, who backed up Tina Charles in the post.
“We all believe we have a quality team,” Sienko said. “But if there is a wildcard out there [in free agency] who would contribute to a better situation for us, we at least need to explore it.”
The Sun have signed former WNBA players Ashley Walker, Natasha Lacy and Latoya Williams, a former junior college All-American, to training camp contracts on Tuesday.
Sienko still does not know whether European imports Sandrine Gruda, a 6-5 center from France, and Alba Torrens, a 6-3 forward from Spain, will play in the WNBA this season.
After playing portions of three seasons for the Sun [2008-10] she has not appeared in a WNBA game since.
“Gruda and her agent are not sure she wants to play with us this summer,” Sienko said. “Its always “to-be-determined” with her, usually at the last minute based on her international responsibilities. We would like her, but it’s their hands right now.
Torrens has recovered from a serious knee injury sustained in January 2012.
“Alba Just started playing in early January [with Galatasaray in Turkey] and will play for a month or two before determining if she wants to come and play this season [for the Sun].”
So in the meantime, Lawson and her teammates wait for the start of training camp and a new start with a new coach.
“But the reality is, I’m a totally different player than I was five years ago. And she is probably a different coach,” Lawson said. “So there will still be some growing. But I have a great deal of trust and confidence in me and I have the same for her.”