Blaze Makes Change; Names Donovan Interim Head Coach
At the midway point of a season that has had more downs than ups, New York Liberty president and general manager Carol Blazejowski has decided to make a coaching change.
The Liberty announced today that Pat Coyle has been relieved of her head coaching duties. She will be replaced by assistant coach Anne Donovan, who will serve as interim head coach for the remainder of the season.
“It was one of the most difficult decisions of my career,” Blazejowski said. “We’re not folding our hands here; we’re making one final run in the second half of the season”
Coyle, who joined the Liberty as an assistant coach in 1998, was named the team’s head coach on December 8, 2004, after serving as interim head coach midway through the 2004 season. In her five seasons as head coach, she compiled a record of 81-90, including an impressive four post-season campaigns and two Eastern Conference Finals appearances.
But after guiding New York to within one win of advancing to the WNBA Finals last season, the team has since been unable to pick up where it left off. The Liberty (6-11) fell to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings after dropping a 78-75 decision to the Washington Mystics Thursday night at the Garden. It was their third consecutive loss.
“When we came off a two-point loss last year to advance into the Finals, the expectations were very high for this club,” Blazejowski said. “And our record at the moment isn’t at the .500 mark, so I just felt with a whole half of the season left and perhaps these moves will jumpstart us.”
Donovan, who is considered one of the most accomplished women's basketball players and coaches in history, could be just the person they need to make the turnaround happen. She will make her New York head coaching debut on Saturday when the Liberty begin a season-long five-game road trip in Atlanta.
“This is a change that we all have to transition into and I believe Anne will,” Blazejowski said. “Anne is on the road traveling on the long road trip, and it will be up to her to make the adjustments.”
Donovan is no stranger to coaching in the WNBA. She has previously held WNBA head-coaching positions in Indiana (2000), Charlotte (2001-2002) and Seattle (2003-2007), where she guided the Storm to the 2004 championship. Last summer, she coached the U.S. Women's National team to an Olympic gold medal in Beijing.
After joining the Liberty shortly before training camp, Donovan has adjusted well to her new surroundings.
“There was a learning curve for her when she came into this job in terms of learning the personnel and learning the tendencies and learning the offensive and defensive sets," said Blazejowski. "But Anne has the experience and she is a proven winner.”
Blazejowski will keep Donovan as the interim head coach for the season before “re-evaluating” the situation during the offseason. She also plans on adding assistant coaches by the end of the summer.