"Dream Team" Looks to Bring a Championship to New York
Led by two of the great minds of the game in President and General Manager Carol “Blaze” Blazejowski and Head Coach Pat Coyle, the Liberty have gone from a team rebuilding to one on the brink of a title in just three short seasons.
The recent addition of Assistant Coach Anne Donovan, a proven winner on all levels, could be the final piece to bringing a championship to New York for the first time in franchise history.
“Anne brings a different perspective, a different mentality, a winning mindset and a championship mindset,” said Blazejowski, who can add signing a coach of Donovan’s stature as one of her greatest accomplishments as a GM.
Donovan joined the Liberty’s staff nearly eight months after leading the U.S. Women’s Senior National Team to a gold medal at last summer’s Beijing Olympics. In doing so, she became the only basketball player to win the gold both as a player and coach.
Now, back in the WNBA for the first time since 2007, she is coaching alongside Coyle, who is in her fifth season as the Liberty’s head coach. For Donovan, it’s a dream come true working with Coyle and Blazejowski, also New Jersey natives who have excelled on and off the court.
It’s could be considered the “Dream Team” of all WNBA staff’s, according to Donovan.
“It is for me, personally,” she says, “because I have such respect for both Patty and Blaze. They’re both two of my closest friends, so for me it’s a great situation.”
It wasn’t difficult for New York to recruit Donovan, whose relationship with both Coyle and Blazejowski dates back over three decades. Blazejowski knew Donovan was seeking a job following the Olympics and, with nothing to lose, simply offered her the position.
Donovan gladly accepted and is pleased to return to the WNBA.
“Since the Olympics, I hadn’t been doing a whole lot,” said Donovan, who was chosen with Mike Krzyzewski as co-recipients of the 2008 USA Basketball Coach of the Year award. “I was eager to get back into the game and this was an opportunity for me to do that in an organization that I have a great deal of respect for.”
Donovan began her WNBA career as the interim head coach for the expansion Indiana Fever in 2000, followed by head coaching positions with the Charlotte Sting (2001-02) and the Seattle Storm (2003-07). She made four playoff appearances in Seattle and helped the Storm win the 2004 WNBA championship.
Despite never working as an assistant in the league before, Donovan is comfortable being the second in charge on the Liberty’s sideline.
“It’s really everything I hoped it be coming into this situation,” she said. “It’s the first time I’ve been an assistant coach for a long time, so coming here I had a really good feel for both Patty and Blaze. And all you can do is trust that it’s going to be everything that people talk about it being before you get to the role. And now that you’re here, it’s been a real exchange between Patty and I where I feel like she is utilizing me and I’m learning a lot everyday, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Coyle is thrilled to have one of the greatest coaches ever next to her on the bench.
“She’s been great,” Coyle said. “Anne is not only just a quality person but you can’t get much better as far as coaching-wise. She’s been there; she’s gotten it done at every level. Just for me as a coach to have her challenge me and me challenge her everyday has been great.” Donovan’s duties include assisting Coyle in player development, game preparation and scouting, as well as planning practices and individual player workouts. During training camp, the former 6-foot-8 center has focused on working with the team’s frontcourt players, including rookie Kia Vaughn.
New York reached the Eastern Conference Finals last season, but came up short to the powerful Detroit Shock in three games. The Liberty were also eliminated by the Shock in the first round in 2007, a year after finishing with the worst record (11-23) in franchise history.
“Our only aspiration is to win a championship,” Blazejowski said. “You want to win this year and you want to go on a run like Houston did. They did four in a row.”
With the “Dream Team” staff in place, anything is possible.