Mike Thibault’s Return to Mohegan Sun Friday Night
Thomas Wolfe had it right with the title of his novel “You Can’t Go Home Again”. You can go home, home may not be what it was when you left. Sometimes home changes, sometimes we change. Some people return as successes who have outgrown the hometown. Some fail to realize their dreams in the world and the hometown doesn’t seem as friendly and comforting as it once did. Friday night Mike Thibault returned to his longtime home in southeastern Connecticut and the return lived up to his expectations, because he didn’t expect too much. “It was just another road game, to be honest with you”, Thibault said to a throng of old media friends after his Washington Mystics exited the Mohegan Sun Arena in Montville with a four point win over the franchise he helped build as the only coach the Connecticut Sun had in the first 10 years of their existence. The Sun didn’t go out of their way to put on a welcoming reception, but Thibault wasn’t expecting pomp and circumstance. “It was fun to come back and see friends and fans”, he said, after his team overcame a nine point deficit by holding the Sun to two points in the final six and a half minutes. “I appreciated the fans welcoming me back at the start”, he said of the loud ovation they gave him as he made the unfamiliar stroll to the visitor’s bench, “That was nice. After being here 10 years I’m glad they showed some appreciation and I appreciated that.” But, as Thomas Wolfe articulates, the old home town ain’t what it used to be. “I liked seeing my friends, loved seeing the fans”, said Thibault, who added with a grin familiar to old hometown acquaintances, “But I liked making Connecticut a little bit nervous for a couple of days.” That Thibault was a popular coach in Montville was evident from the smiles and embraces with which he and his wife, Nanci, were greeted by the heirarchy in the Sun organization who made the decision last November to part ways with him. In January Anne Donovan accepted the daunting task of succeeding Thibault and, the day before his first return, she admitted to being a little anxious about how the day would go, but in general, she said after the game, “I was looking forward to seeing him. Most of us in this profession are colleagues and Mike’s a good friend. It was good to see him at the shoot around this morning and talk to him a little bit.” “Other than that”, added Donovan, echoing Thibault’s sentiments, “It was just another game.” Mike Thibault spent a few minutes after the game renewing acquaintances, enjoying his session with media people who had become so familiar to him over 10 years, accepting congratulations, a hand shake here, a touch on the arm or shoulder there, and then it was time to move on. “The moment is short lived”, he said before exiting the building that was once his domain, “We have Minnesota in 24 hours.” And that’s what has become of what once was home for Mike Thibault, just another spot on the WNBA map and a short stop on the way to the next game. Thomas Wolfe was right. “You Can’t Go Home Again”. Because home isn’t likely to be what you remember it to be. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.