Anne Donovan, the Basketball Hall of Famer who won a national championship at Old Dominion, two Olympic gold medals as a player and another as a coach, died Wednesday of heart failure. She was 56.
Donovan’s family confirmed the death in a statement.
“While it is extremely difficult to express how devastating it is to lose Anne, our family remains so very grateful to have been blessed with such a wonderful human being,” the statement said.
“Anne touched many lives as a daughter, sister, aunt, friend and coach. Anne was a person with strong faith, courageous spirit, a giving heart and love for everyone,” her family’s statement continued. “We are so proud of her accomplishments as a women’s’ basketball player and coach, but even more proud of her character, integrity, humility and kindness.”
Donovan was at the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tennessee, last weekend.
She was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995, was part of the inaugural class of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999 and was inducted in the FIBA Hall of Fame in 2015.
“My heart aches for the loss of Lady Monarch legend and Hall of Famer, Anne Donovan,” Lady Monarchs coach Nikki McCray said. “An exceptional player, coach and even better person, her legacy will be remembered for years to come. I am thankful to have known her and now to coach at her alma mater. Rest in peace, coach.”
The 6-foot-8 center coached both in college and the WNBA. She became the first female coach and the youngest person (42) to win a title in the WNBA, guiding the Seattle Storm to a championship in 2004.
“Anne Donovan will always be remembered as a championship coach and a championship person,” the Storm said in a statement. “Her dedication, passion and winning spirit set the tone for Storm Basketball. We are deeply saddened by her passing and share our heartfelt condolences with her family.”
Donovan was a member of three Olympics teams as a player. The 1980 team did not go to Russia because of a boycott. The team won the gold in 1984 and ’88, and she coached the winning 2008 team.
“USA Basketball mourns the passing of Anne Donovan. She played for her first USA Basketball team in 1977 and during her Hall of Fame, 31-year USA career, she was a member of five U.S. Olympic teams and four USA World Championship teams as an athlete and coach, culminating in leading the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team to gold as our head coach in Beijing,” USA Basketball said in a statement. “She used to say she bled red, white and blue. As much as we remember her accomplishments in the game, we mourn a great friend who will be greatly missed.”
Donovan also coached the WNBA’s Indiana Fever, the Charlotte Sting, New York Liberty and Connecticut Sun, working there from 2013-15. The New Jersey native also coached at Seton Hall for a few years.
“Anne was a true pioneer in our sport, and her influence and leadership had a tremendous impact on the growth of women’s basketball and the WNBA,” the Liberty said in a statement. “We join the entire women’s basketball community in celebrating her life and extraordinary legacy.”
After playing at Old Dominion, Donovan played professionally in Japan and Italy.
After retiring, she was an assistant at Old Dominion and then coached at East Carolina University from 1995-1998. She coached the Philadelphia Rage in the American Basketball League in 1997-98.