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Finally, Sun show some fire


Kalana Greene missed a layup in the first half Thursday night and Anne Donovan unloaded a foot stomp that would have Jim Calhoun taking notes. A little later in the half, she told one of the overmatched officials that his call was and eight-letter word beginning with "bull."

We knew you'd come around, coach.

Frankly, this is what your team needs.

That and an even harder kick in the collective keister that Donovan gave the Connecticut Sun at halftime Thursday night. The Sun trailed by nine to the team formerly known as the Indiana Fever, the team missing the great Tamika Catchings as well as Erin Phillips and Katie Douglas.

Mistie Bass: "That was the first time I've ever seen her like that."

Renee Montgomery: "You could see how badly she wanted to win this game. I'm glad we did win it just for her to know we got her back."

That's the first time all season a Sun player has uttered anything close to a warm-and-fuzzy about their new coach. Maybe - just maybe - Thursday night was Step One.

The Sun, playing before the smallest crowd in this arena in more than 10 years (4,971) rallied from 16 down late in the third period and beat Indiana, 70-64. And while it shouldn't be lost that Indiana was depleted, when you are 5-12, you are in no position to critique.

Besides, the win might have chipped away at the wall that appears to exist between Donovan and her players. They saw a different side to her Thursday. A side they appreciated.

"I saw a coach who is sick and tired of seeing the same type of play over and over," Bass said, "a coach at her wits end to try and get us to play the way we can play."

Donovan used the word "passion" several times after Thursday's game. She spoke of "fire." Or lack thereof. In Donovan's Utopia, she arms the players with information in practice and lets them figure it out during the games. That's fine. They're professionals. But they're human, too. It's not always about dry intellectual discussions. It's about how you feel, too. What if the personality of this collection of players needs the occasional spleen venter?

"Kara Lawson? Tremendous passion. She brings a fire we don't have right now," Donovan said, alluding to the Sun's point guard out with a bone bruise in her knee. "We can't keep looking at the next person and wonder who's going to bring it. I didn't see any in the first half and that was concerning."

More Donovan, who spoke more candidly with the media, too, after the game: "I don't know that I saw a Kara Lawson passion and fire (in the fourth quarter) but I saw people out there with their noses down and going to work. ? You watched the game. Did you see anybody with passion like Kara? It's a special, unique thing. This team has to learn how to play without that. In the absence, of that, people have to go to work."

Donovan was asked whether her foot stomp and cuss word were meant to inspire her team. And whether we'd see more of that.

"That's not my personality," she said. "My personality is to prepare and give them the tools. Truthfully, I like to sit down. Unfortunately, I don't sit down. I have too much hunger to sit down and too much desperation to sit down. A cuss word is not unusual though. I'm glad you only caught one. That's really good."

OK, so it's not Donovan's personality. But - again - what if that's what this team needs? Might she have to change a little, too? No one's saying she needs to channel her inner Calhoun, but a little bit of Vesuvius exploding now and then isn't such a bad thing.

Plus, the players rather liked it.

"It's exactly what we needed," Bass said. "She believes in us as individuals and as a team. It's hard for her to watch us not live up to the expectations she has for us. Her speech brought it home for us: Play with passion and don't be willing to lose again."

Montgomery: "It's been difficult. Literally the whole staff changed. Things are different across the board. We're used to things done a certain way. I do hope this will build a bond between the players and coaching staff."

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.


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