asks, Donovan Answers

New Storm Head Coach Anne Donovan recently visited Seattle in preparation for the upcoming 2003 WNBA season. After making a few community appearances, Donovan sat courtside as the Sonics defeated the Chicago Bulls at KeyArena on Saturday night. Before departing back to the East Coast to continue her college scouting, she sat down to field a few questions from about her new team. After a successful 2002 season, which saw the Storm defeat the WNBA Champion Los Angeles Sparks and advance to the playoffs for the first time, how can the Storm stay among the WNBA’s elite teams?
Head Coach Anne Donovan: I feel that we can make sure we’re a playoff team again is the way that we start the season. They had a great run at the end of last season, which propelled them into the playoffs, but I’d like to see us start better and pick up where they left off last season. With so much momentum and so much confidence in beating teams like Los Angeles, we really had a good finish to the season. So if we can start off there, we’re right where we want to be. How do you characterize the growth of this young Storm team in contrast to the veteran team you had in Charlotte?
AD: My team in Charlotte had nothing but experience with Dawn Staley and Andrea Stinson and Charlotte Smith. Experience is invaluable in this league. The only way to get it is to go though experiences. Last year they went though a great hurdle in beating Los Angeles twice and made a great run to get into the postseason. That experience will pay dividends this season because this young team knows what’s it about and what it took. There’s no more “can we do it?” They know they can do it. That’s our approach when we start this season. What do you hope to see in the development of Felicia Ragland and Amanda Lassiter as they become crucial in supporting the play of Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson?
AD: I’m very excited about Felicia and Amanda. I think they have so much potential in this league with their athleticism and their ability to score. They are both very solid defensive players. As they get older, more mature, gain more physical strength and get some experience in the league, they will become more and more valuable. In our scheme of things, I see them both playing a significant role in the growth of this young team. Who is going to be the “third option” to Sue and Lauren?
AD: I see a lot of players who can potentially step into that role and hopefully provide a consistent scoring punch. It’s not just Felicia and Amanda. Kamila Vodichkova and Simone Edwards are also solid post players who can give us offense. There is a nice balance on this roster. We just have to make sure that the other positions contribute consistently, so that all of the opponents’ pressure and focus doesn’t fall on Sue and Lauren every game. Even though the college and dispersal draft details have not been finalized, how do you assess the Storm’s approach to the drafts?
AD: We still have decisions to make in terms of what we will do at the draft. There are things we have to look at as far as what position we target and whether or not we keep our picks. We can really use any position on the court to gain more depth. The dispersal draft should prove valuable to us because it will bring us some experienced players. I’m excited about that draft. I know the college draft will also bring us a good player, it’s just a matter of who is available at the time our pick comes up. We’ll have to pick the best player available. At our spot in this draft, we won’t have the luxury of picking by position. What kind of player does the Storm need to complement its two greatest strengths, namely Sue at the point and Lauren at the post?
AD: I see a need for a wing player who can help complement both Sue and Lauren, but I am going in having a lot of confidence in Felicia and Amanda. I feel that an experience player in that wing spot would be a very nice addition to our roster. Sue had an amazing rookie year as a player and a leader in 2002. Evaluate the impact that the U.S. World Championship Team had on her and her continued development as a leader?
AD: It is so critical when you assemble the best players on a team. For Sue and Lauren, they are the best players in Seattle. When you take the best players from every team and put them together, now the common denominator is that everybody possesses tremendous talent. The question is how do you separate yourself with your work ethic, desire, commitment and your mental approach to the game. I think all of these things were really valuable for Sue to study. She was able to see how WNBA veterans like Dawn Staley, Sheryl Swoopes and Lisa Leslie come to the gym every day. You can’t help but absorb some of that influence. The other players learned a little bit about Sue as well. Do you think any particular part of Sue’s game might have been enhanced as result of being on the World Championship team?
AD: When Sue came to that team last summer, I think she came in thinking she was the new kid on the block and she was going to sit back and let the veterans do their thing. I think she learned that she can compete with the best of them and that she could help us win that gold medal. Overall, that’s the reason her game rose to the next level, because it was demanded. In order to be on that team and participate, you had to play at your highest level. How do you see Lauren’s continued emergence as an MVP-caliber player?
AD: I see Lauren taking a step closer to that every time she takes the floor. She is so hungry to be the MVP of the WNBA. She realizes how close she is to Lisa Leslie in all areas. The competition doesn’t just end when our season is over; it carries over internationally when they are both fighting for that MVP award. Lauren was the leading scorer in the World Championships, and she wasn’t playing a ton of minutes. It just shows you where her team is at on an international platform. Every year she gets more maturity, more strength and more knowledge of how to make sure she is the MVP of this league. I have no doubt she will be that MVP. Do you see her trying to develop more of an inside game or will she always rely on her outside shot?
AD: People tend to look at post players and look at what they don’t have. They look at a 6-5 player and think she should have her back to the basket and play closer to the rim. But that’s what makes Lauren so great and separates her game from others; she’s so comfortable facing up and shooting. She’ll continue to do a little of both, and hopefully in our system, we’ll enable her to be successful at both. Do you expect to change you style or approach to the game now that you are a Western Conference coach?
AD: There’s not as much pounding in the West. There’s a physical pounding every time you play an Eastern Conference team. In terms of style, I don’t see myself changing a whole lot. I think I am adaptable to either, and hopefully we’ll flourish with Lauren and Sue. We have two great scorers right here and I’m excited about the things we can do here.