Editor’s note: Seattle Times reporter Jayda Evans will have a weekly conversation with a newsmaker in the WNBA. This week she speaks with Connecticut coach Anne Donovan, whose Sun is a league-worst 8-23 in her return to the league. Donovan led Seattle to its first championship in 2004.
Seattle Times: Well, this is some welcome back to the league, injuries decimating your roster to a point where you’ve played multiple games with eight. With the CBA up at season’s end, you have to be another proponent for an injured-reserve list?
Anne Donovan: Actually, I’ve been warned about my comments about that but I do hope that’s the natural evolution when there are so many great players who are overseas and worthy of being in the league. Then there’s the fact that we could use more bodies. I’ll leave it at that.
As the first team eliminated from playoff contention last month, what’s the focus to finish the final three games?
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Donovan: Truthfully, we don’t talk about next game. A lot of players’ contracts are up, so there’s talk among themselves about trying to maintain a job. But we’re just trying to play respectfully. And, despite not having Kara Lawson (knee), Alison Hightower (knee) and Kelly Faris (foot), get the most out of what we have.
Q: Can you believe that it’s almost been 10 years since you won the WNBA title in Seattle?
Donovan: (Former Storm forward) Izzy (Castro Marques) and I were talking about that; it just doesn’t feel different at all here. But it’s brought up constantly because we (Seattle) beat Connecticut (2-1 in the championship series). Now, I feel how precious it was. We recognized it at the time, especially the next year when everything is compared to the championship. But you really realize how hard it is and how much skill, maturity, health and luck is involved. So, I’m really happy we were able to do it. I’d love to duplicate it, but know how challenging that is.
Q: Nice, you do have enough bling, too! In talking about that next season (2005) and overseas talent, you had two Australians, a Russian, Italian, Brazilian, and Jamaican on your Seattle roster. Why do you think that kind of international flavor has diminished?
Donovan: We had some great personalities. I loved that. But players are starting to make different choices in terms of their careers. There’s more money overseas, so for a foreign player, it’s much easier to stay home. There was such a lure to come to the WNBA, “the best league in the world.” It doesn’t have the same attraction anymore … they go with where the money is at.
Q: Your best draft pick, Tanisha Wright (12th overall in 2005), not only stuck but is now leading the Storm. What do you see in her progress?
Donovan: The personality of this team is Tanisha Wright all the way — blue-collar, chippy, prove-you-wrong and a work-ethic second to nobody. I’ll never forget, just before I left (2007), we were trying to make decisions with Betty Lennox’s (contract) coming due and Tanisha said, “I’m absolutely ready to be a starter.” In the exit interview I said, “So, you can take Betty’s spot?” Without any hesitation at all she said, “Absolutely.” She always had this confidence about her and that’s exactly what you see.