Donovan eager to re-energize Pirates

Updated: March 31, 2010, 4:22 PM ET
Associated Press

SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. -- U.S. Olympic coach Anne Donovan isn't going to be satisfied simply rebuilding and re-energizing the women's basketball program at Seton Hall.

The New Jersey native and current New York Liberty coach is looking to make the Pirates a power.

"Are you watching the women's [NCAA] tournament?" Donovan asked about 200 spectators who gathered at Walsh Gymnasium, where the university introduced her as the women's coach and Kevin Willard as the men's basketball coach at a news conference.

After some in the crowd said they were, Donovan had a shocker for them.

"Are you sick of UConn beating up on folks?" she said, drawing a roar from the crowd. "So am I!"

With that, Donovan ended her speech and threw down the gauntlet at the rest of the Big East Conference.

No more will Seton Hall be one of the weakest teams in the league, something that regrettably happened in the final years of Phyllis Mangina's 25-year stint as coach.

Mangina resigned earlier this month after the Pirates posted a 9-21 record, including a 1-15 mark in the league that for decades has been dominated by Geno Auriemma and his defending national champion Huskies, who are again in the Final Four.

Donovan laughed when asked if she knew she had become instant bulletin board material for Connecticut, which has won 76 straight games.

"When you are the best and you run the program like he has for so long, everyone wants to knock you off," said Donovan, a former Naismith Player of the Year at Old Dominion. "No secret there. Geno knows that more than anybody."

Donovan refused to say how long it would take to turn around a program that has had five winning seasons in the past 15 years.

"I won't know until I get on the floor and have some idea of where we are," Donovan said. "I am excited though. What I do is build. That is what I have done at every place I have taken up, whether it was pro or college ... So to get in and get my hands dirty and have the patience to build this and grow it and weed out where the commitment level is -- we're going to get it done."

Donovan won't take over the program right away. She will coach the Liberty one more season, which means she won't take over full time at Seton Hall until late August.

Current assistant Ty Grace is being retained and will handle recruiting and other matters during that time.

After coaching 12 seasons in the pros, Donovan said she had been thinking about returning to the college ranks when she learned that Mangina had resigned. Although she never thought about coaching at Seton Hall, it offered her the opportunity to go home.

"I thought it's a good fit for me," she said. "I chose Old Dominion for a smaller campus, a more intimate environment and the opportunity to grow the program, and this had the same feel as I walked on campus."

Donovan hopes to capitalize on her experience in the pros and the Olympics to draw recruits.

"I understand this program is serious," Donovan said. "I am not at Seton Hall if this program has not made a commitment."

Donovan, who calls herself a teacher, posted a 33-51 record at East Carolina from 1995 to 1998.

"It wasn't a finished product when I left but it was better than when I got there," Donovan said, noting she stays in contact with those former players. "That's what I am about, the relationships and making sure these kids get a well-rounded education and the best basketball experience they can get."

Donovan met with the current players before the news conference.

"There was a very positive atmosphere when she came in," said center Whitney Wood, who will be a junior next year. "She was very nice. She said I am very nice but also know that I really want to win. It was great all around."


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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