Bright Opportunity

by Christian Mordi / @mordi_thecomeup

Some situations are just too good to pass up. Coach Anne Donovan was back at home in her native state of New Jersey rebuilding the program at Seton Hall University when the Connecticut Sun called for her services. The Sun pitched the idea of coaching for a loyal fan base, working with a great staff and grooming reigning MVP Tina Charles.

Donovan accepted the job as Sun head coach in early January, and SLAMonline sat down with the Hall of Famer to discuss leaving Seton Hall, replacing the injured Asjha Jones, coaching Tina Charles and more.

SLAM: You said that “[leaving Seton Hall] wasn’t about me wanting back in the WNBA, it was a situation that was too good to turn down.” What made this job too hot to pass up on?

Anne Donovan: I believe this is the best organization in the WNBA. I’m not saying this just because I work here, but if you ask most teams in the league, this organization from top to bottom has a passion about it and commitment to itself to make sure it is the best in the league.

I think a lot of it comes from Connecticut basketball. As a state, I believe they really appreciate the game. They have passionate fans that get behind and support the teams. This organization does a great job reaching out to them. Also they are competitive. They have been a good team in the WNBA for the past 11 years.

SLAM: Asjha Jones will be sitting out the summer to rest, and Danielle McCray just went down with an Achilles injury. How will you guys fill the void?

AD: It’s interesting because Asjha has not only been impactful with her production on the floor but leadership as well. I think we are also seeing Tina Charles really emerge with her being the MVP in the league and leader of this team. She is a young player that has had great success in the league and internationally. I really expect her to continue to grow. The point guard position and the power forward spot are really tough to fill. We have tried to do it with trades but nothing has materialized yet.

With that being said, if we open May 25 with this roster, it will be about us developing some of the younger players. We were expecting Danielle to have a big role, but it just opens the door for another player. My biggest concern is filling Asjha’s gap. I keep telling all the girls its up to all of us, not just one person. We have Kelsey Griffin who we are looking to develop. We are really looking forward to seeing her hit the floor as she had a good offseason in Australia.

SLAM: The Sun took a wing player at 11th with Kelly Faris. Why did this move make sense to the organization?

AD: Well, I love Kelly’s game. I love all the intangibles you heard Geno Auriemma talk about over the past four years. You see how she came in as a freshman and where she ended up as a senior and you can see she really worked on her game. She is passionate and hard-nosed defender. She also shoots well, 40 percent from the three-point line. I love that she is one who I want to go in the trenches with and also works on her game. We were inclined to take a post player with that pick, but all of the post players went.

SLAM: The slate is really wiped clean this year for many players with you now at the helm. Offensively and defensively what would you like to change with this team?

AD: Well, this is a great scoring team that loves to push the ball and I don’t want to slow them down at all. I think if things don’t happen in transition we can go into our sets. Mike Thibault did a great job of utilizing their guards and post play. Defensively is the area I think we need to step up some with. We need to emphasize the other side of the floor to become more solid.

SLAM: Renee Montgomery shifted last year to a new role off the bench, averaging 12 points per game. The year before that, she was starting and averaging 15. What are your thoughts on her and her role—will it be open season for her to carve out a role as a starter again?

AD: Great question, and I appreciate Renee’s game like you do. I think she came over from Minnesota in that trade and hasn’t found consistency in her role. Last year she did excel in her role and was Sixth Player of the Year in the WNBA. I think the beauty of change is everyone gets to establish their roles in who they want to be. I know who my MVP is with Tina Charles, and I also have familiarity with Kara Lawson and Kalana Greene, but other than that, I have no preconceived ideas on who will do what. I have talked to Renee a lot about that, and she’s coming into camp ready and determined to carve out a big role.

SLAM: It seems like a great marriage between you and Tina Charles. You’re one of the best players of all time in the frontcourt and now you are coaching the league’s MVP. How excited are you to see her take her game to another level this year, and what do you want to see her work on?

AD: Tina has improved her range so we want to continue to push her range away from the basket. We want to continue to add to her confidence away from the basket and maintain her strength near the rim. She has a great work ethic and at the ripe age of 24 she understands the world is her oyster. I just want to continue to help her reach her goals.

SLAM: How will you gauge success with this team?

AD: Well, here it is about championships. This team has been very successful in the past, and our goal is to win a championship. That is success for us.