Anne Donovan will be the first head coach of the Connecticut Sun’s post-Mike Thibault era, the organization announced today. Donovan, currently head coach of women’s basketball at Seton Hall University, will finish out the 2012-2013 season before taking up her duties with the Sun.
“I am really excited to join the Connecticut Sun, one of the premier franchises in the WNBA,” Donovan said Thursday. “The leadership team of Mitchell Etess and Chris Sienko has built a winning tradition in a fan-friendly environment that offers one of the best home court advantages in the WNBA. I am excited to coach and lead this talented roster of players on the Sun’s quest for a WNBA championship.”
The Naismith Basketball Hall-of-Fame coach, who was also a member of the inaugural class of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999, has Olympic medals to her credit as both a coach (Beijing 2008) and player (Los Angeles 1984, Seoul 1988). She also has the one accolade that eluded the Sun during Thibault’s tenure – a WNBA championship at the helm of the Seattle Storm in 2004, making Donovan the first woman coach to achieve that distinction.
Donovan also made a WNBA Finals appearance as head coach of the now-defunct Charlotte Sting in 2001 and guided three different WNBA teams to a total of seven playoffs berths during her 10 years as a head coach in the league before her return to college coaching in 2011.
A three-time Kodak All-American and the 1983 Naismith Trophy winner in her playing days at Old Dominion, Donovan led the Monarchs to the AIAW National Championship in 1980 and graduated with school records in both points and rebounds. Her 801 blocked shots are still an all-time record, though the official NCAA record is currently held by Louella Tomlinson, who swatted down 663 between 2008 and 2011 while at St. Mary’s, Calif., though Brittney Griner is rapidly closing in on that one, with 631 currently to her credit.
But Donovan’s coaching career has had its down moments as well, foremost among them Team USA’s bronze-medal finish at the 2006 World Championships in Brazil after 68-75 upset by Russia in the semifinals, making it just the second time since 1983 that the U.S. had finished without a gold medal. She stepped down as head coach of the Storm after a disappointing 17-17 finish in 2007 and an 0-2 sweep by Phoenix in the first round of the playoffs. She managed to right the ship in New York: After taking over from a 6-11 Patty Coyle midseason, Donovan finished her first half-season in New York also in the red at 7-10. And though she led the Liberty back to the playoffs in 2010, with a 22-12 record, she was unable to get them back to the WNBA Finals, after being swept by Atlanta for the Eastern Conference championship.
Neither has Donovan done much at the helm of the Pirates, who are currently 5-8 after finishing last just out of last place at 1-15 in Big East play and 8-22 overall.
Still, the Sun say they’re happy to have her as Thibault’s replacement. "We are absolutely thrilled to bring someone of Anne's caliber to the Connecticut Sun,” said team Vice President and General Manager Chris Sienko . “Anne is a proven winner as both an athlete and as a coach. Our team will benefit greatly from her experience as we move into a new era."