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Last published at August 7, 2009 at 11:36 PM

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Storm will have a familiar face on the opposing bench when it faces Liberty

Interim coach Anne Donovan coached the Storm to its sole WNBA championship in 2004.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Today

New York Liberty @ Storm,

7 p.m., 1150 KKNW

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Somehow, Anne Donovan has landed in a time component that's faster than even a New York minute. With Donovan consumed by game preparation, scouting and player issues, the Liberty's communications coordinator said the New York coach didn't even have time for a quick interview.

The former Storm coach was promoted from assistant to interim coach of the Liberty on July 31 when general manager Carol Blazejowski fired coach Pat Coyle. Yet the position is nothing like the one Donovan filled in five seasons with Seattle or even that of her first WNBA job as Indiana's interim coach.

Donovan is the Liberty's coaching staff. New York technically hasn't employed any assistants to replace Donovan, though team manager Catherine Proto continues to help with scouting and video operations.

"I kind of feel bad because it's just them two and it's a lot of work," said Liberty center Cathrine Kraayeveld, who starred at Lake Washington High. "It's always nice to have someone to share the workload. But they've been handling it well and Anne has been doing this for a long time, so I'm sure it's not too overwhelming for her."

But when the Liberty takes the court against the Storm tonight at KeyArena, the focus will be on Donovan.

As Seattle's coach and director of player personnel, she made daring moves to surround established cornerstones Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird with more talent, and led the Storm to its championship in 2004. She remains the only female coach to win a WNBA title.

But the team began to backslide in 2005 when free-agent veterans weren't retained, and the Storm failed to advance past the opening round of the playoffs the next three seasons. In November 2007, Donovan notified the team via e-mail that she wouldn't return.

She was prohibited from coaching in the WNBA for 2008, as she was still under contract with the Storm, but she did coach Team USA to gold at the Beijing Olympics.

"It was pretty abrupt," said Jackson, whose Australian national team lost to the U.S. in the gold-medal game. "After they beat us, we sort of hugged it out, but never really had a conversation about her departure from here. I don't think anyone did. It was just one of those things that was kept fairly well in-house, and we have no idea what really went down."

Storm CEO Karen Bryant said she had tried to convince Donovan to remain as coach. But Bryant said Friday that Donovan told her in that conversation that the Olympic responsibilities and wear and tear of a WNBA season was just too much.

Seattle also was in the process of a transition to new owners, and Donovan's departure opened the door for Brian Agler, who coached the Storm to a franchise-best 22-12 record last season.

This season, however, the Storm is struggling again, as is Donovan's Liberty squad.

Seattle (12-9) has lost its past two games in overtime, while New York beat the Monarchs 84-66 in Sacramento Friday to snap a five-game losing skid. A loss tonight would drop the Storm into a four-way race for three postseason berths.

"It'll be emotional because we need a win, not because Coach D is back," Storm guard Tanisha Wright said. "Maybe the fans will get into it. But we need a win more than anything else."

Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or jevans@seattletimes.com

Copyright © The Seattle Times Company


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