Dishin & Swishin 5/09/13 Podcast: Pokey Chatman & Anne Donovan face different kinds of pressure in tough WNBA Eastern Conference

Pokey Chatman and Anne Donovan. Photos courtesy Chicago Sky and Seton Hall Athletics.
Pokey Chatman and Anne Donovan. Photos courtesy Chicago Sky and Seton Hall Athletics.

It is one type of pressure when the franchise you coach has never made the playoffs in its entire existence. It is another type of pressure when you are succeeding a coach that took the franchise to the conference finals the previous year before losing to the eventual champion. Those are the situations facing Chicago Sky head coach Pokey Chatman and Connecticut Sun head coach Anne Donovan.

Chatman enters her third season in the WNBA with high expectations. The team returns most of its core from a team that struggled under the weight of injuries last season, but includes a lot of talent. Sylvia Fowles played less minutes overseas this past winter, Epiphanny Prince was having a breakout season before getting injured last year, Courtney Vandersloot is entering her third season, and Swin Cash continues to play at an extremely high level. The primary reason for the excitement however, is the arrival of Chicago’s member of the ‘three to see,” Elena Delle Donne.

On paper, that starting five is as good as any in the Eastern conference; however, it is on the court they need to improve. Delle Donne needs to adjust very quickly to the pro game’s speed and intensity, Vandersloot has to improve consistency, Prince needs to continue to blossom, Cash needs to help Delle Donne out on both ends, and perhaps most importantly, Fowles needs to stay healthy and return to the 20 points, 10 rebounds per game star she has been.

Chatman has the task of pulling this all together and taking the team not only into the playoffs, but possibly make a deep run. It is a crucial year for the Sky; attendance still has not been outstanding, and while the pre-season buzz has been phenomenal, including Delle Donne throwing out the first pitch at a Cubs game in Wrigley Field, it will take victories for the fans to turn out consistently.

Victories the Connecticut Sun have consistently achieved; it is championships that are lacking. So after last season’s final playoff series collapse, the management of the franchise decided highly successful and popular coach Mike Thibault had taken the team as far as he could. Anne Donovan had left the WNBA to build the program at Seton Hall University, back home in New Jersey, when the Sun called, and Donovan jumped at the chance to coach the Sun.

Duplicating last season’s success would be difficult under any circumstances, but when all-star Asjha Jones decided to take the season off, it became even tougher. Figuring out how to replace Jones’ minutes and production will be difficult, and will involve a combination of Mistie Bass and Kelsey Griffin stepping up, and perhaps the July arrival of Sandrine Gruda. Still, the Sun returns the league’s Most Valuable Player in Tina Charles and veteran floor leader Kara Lawson, along with Allison Hightower, Renee Montgomery and other experienced players ready to challenge again.

On today’s Dishin & Swishin podcast Chatman and Donovan discuss the season ahead, and the challenges they face.

Chatman talks about the drafting of Delle Donne and how the team plans to use her, the needed improvement in Vandersloot, and the importance of Prince, Fowles and Cash. She talks about the Russian season and coaching her Seimone Augustus led team in Chatman’s final season as a head coach in Russia. Chatman also discusses the need to succeed, and how the franchise needs to make the playoffs this year .

Donovan joins the podcast from Media Day earlier this week, and talks about coaching Charles and Lawson, and the rest of the Sun. Donovan discusses the decision to leave Seton Hall, what she saw and why they drafted Kelly Faris, the division of Jones’ production and minutes, the “Gruda situation,” and where else the team will need to improve to succeed.

A pre-season WNBA Dishin & Swishin podcast for your enjoyment!

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