Anne Donovan, the Basketball Hall of Famer who won a national championship at Old Dominion, two Olympic gold medals in the 1980s and coached the U.S. to gold in 2008, has died of heart failure at age 56.
Anne Donovan, a legend in women’s basketball who led the Storm to its first WNBA title in 2004, died Wednesday of heart failure. She was 56.
“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,” Ms. Donovan’s family said in a statement. “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.”
Ms. Donovan, a native of Ridgewood, New Jersey, won two Olympic gold medals and was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995.
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The 6-foot-8 center rose to basketball stardom at Old Dominion from 1979-83 where she averaged 20 points and 14.5 rebounds and led the Lady Monarchs to two NCAA tournament Final Fours in 1982 and ’83.
A three-time Olympian, Ms. Donovan helped the U.S. to gold medals in 1984 and ’88. (The 1980 U.S. Olympic team did not compete in the 1980 Moscow Games due to an American-led boycott.)
Ms. Donovan played professionally for five years (1984-89) overseas before starting a coaching career where she was an assistant at Old Dominion from 1989-95.
She began her pro coaching career with Philadelphia of the defunct American Basketball League. Ms. Donovan began her WNBA coaching career at Indiana (2000) and Charlotte (2001-02) before being hired by the Storm in 2003.
In 2004, Ms. Donovan led Seattle to a 20-14 record when the Storm defeated Connecticut 2-1 in the WNBA Finals. Ms. Donovan was the first woman and the youngest coach to win a league championship.
“Anne Donovan will always be remembered as a championship coach and a championship person,” Storm co-owner Lisa Brummel 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.”
After her stint in Seattle, Ms. Donovan coached for the New York Liberty (2009-10) and finished her WNBA career with the Connecticut Sun (2013-15). She also coached at Seton Hall (2010-13).
Ms. Donovan compiled a 205-214 WNBA record. She ranks seventh on the league’s all-time wins list.
WNBA president Lisa Borders called Ms. Donovan a trailblazer who “played a seminal role in the growth of women’s basketball.”
“For all she accomplished in college, the WNBA and on the international stage during her Hall of Fame career, Anne will also be remembered as a valued mentor and dear friend to so many in the game,” Borders said in a statement. “On behalf of the WNBA, we extend our deepest sympathies to the Donovan family during this difficult time.”
Ms. 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,” Old Dominion 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 Associated Press contributed to this report.