UNCASVILLE, Conn. – The Connecticut Sun went 10-24 in 2013. It was a miserable season for a team with no chemistry. It was obvious that change needed to come, and not just by trading Kara Lawson and adding Katie Douglas.
The Sun made a major splash during Monday's WNBA Draft at Mohegan Sun Arena, trading 2012 MVP Tina Charles to the New York Liberty and a 2015 third round pick for Kelsey Bone, a 2015 first round pick and the rights to Monday's fourth overall pick, Alyssa Thomas.
Connecticut had the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft, which it used on Stanford star Chiney Ogwumike, and then added Duke's Chelsea Gray at No. 11 and Kentucky's DeNesha Stallworth at No. 25.
Vice president and general manager Chris Sienko said that Charles' agent told them about two weeks ago that the former UConn star would not be playing for the Sun this season.
"It's very vague to us," Sienko said. "She had said that she wanted a change of scenery last year. Then we visited her and it was all about, 'I just want to win.' So we put together all the pieces that she wanted and that we felt were important to us anyways. So we didn't change our team because of Tina, but we made changes that were important to our team.
"And ultimately after that, her agent said that Tina just wants to go home; it's not about winning. I said, 'Well, what happened to the winning part of the equation?' And she said that she was willing to forego winning for a few years to be back in New York, which, you know - I think that's a copout."
The Liberty open the 2014 season on May 16. The opener, Charles' expected debut, is at Mohegan Sun Arena against Connecticut.
In her first season in the WNBA, Bone, a national champion at Texas A&M, appeared in 34 games for the Liberty, averaging 6.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.
Both Bone and Thomas, a three-time All-American and ACC Player of the Year at Maryland, will provide depth for the Sun in the frontcourt. Thomas averaged 19 points and 10.9 rebounds, leading Maryland to the Final Four as a No. 4 seed.
"As it stands, I think we ended up getting really good value out of the trade," Connecticut head coach Anne Donovan said. "But is it something that we were trying to make happen? We were not the drivers of that trade. Tina and New York were the ones that were in the driver seat there, but I think we did pretty well with what we got."
Charles' decision to leave did not have an affect on the Sun's draft strategy with the No. 1 pick, as they were always planning to take Ogwumike, a three-time First Team All-American for Stanford.
"(Charles) knew we were selecting Chiney," Sienko said. "It would have been an unbelievable duo, but ultimately, we move on. That's our job as an organization."
Ogwumike had by far her best season for Stanford during the 2013-14 season, averaging 26.1 points, 12.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game, leading Stanford back to the Final Four, where they lost to UConn.
Her sister, Nneka, was the No. 1 overall pick in 2012 by the Los Angeles Sparks. The only siblings to ever both go No. 1 are Peyton and Eli Manning.
"To be picked number one, in front of the Connecticut fans, with my family and with my sister; it's unreal," Ogwumike said.
With their third pick in the first round, Connecticut took a chance on Gray, who has had a history of knee issues at Duke, including an injury in January that will keep her out for this season.
Gray will spend the summer in California working out and preparing to join the Sun next season, but she will be taking every opportunity she can get to watch Connecticut during trips to the West Coast.
"I'm excited; it's a blessing," Gray said. "I'm going to rehab as hard as I can to get back on the court and just get this knee strong so we have no lingering issues."
Donovan does not call this a transition phase for the Sun, despite the massive overhaul. The Sun reloaded, but winning is the expectation right away.
Douglas was with Connecticut for five years before spending the last six in Indiana, and she has always proven to be a leader as well as a star on the floor. Donovan said that Douglas did not come here to rebuild. She did hope that Charles would want to be part of what the Sun are planning to do with Douglas and Ogwumike, but she is excited about the direction of her team entering her second year on the bench.
"I'm disappointed (with Charles)," Donovan said, "but truthfully, you just have got to have people who are committed to winning and want to be here, and that didn't describe Tina anymore. She didn't want to be in Connecticut anymore, she didn't - made it clear.
"So moving forward, we're going to have players who want to be here and will put it all out on the line, night in and night out, and understand about preparing and how important preparation is for success. And I think all of that is going to translate into a really good team."
For more on analysis of the Sun's draft and trades, check out our Connecticut Sun offseason storystream.