• October 17, 2021

Anne Donovan, a Hall of Famer and Olympic gold medalist who led Seattle to its first WNBA title, dies at 56

Women’s basketball legend Anne Donovan passes away at 56


Old Dominion University will host a memorial service for women’s basketball legend Anne Donovan on Sunday, July 29, from 1 to 3 p.m. ET in the Big Blue Room of the Ted Constant Center. Donovan passed away on June 13. Details and RSVP info.

Anne Donovan, a legend of women’s basketball, passed away Wednesday at the age of 56 due to heart failure. She was a native of Ridegwood, New Jersey and when she graduated from Paramus Catholic before heading to Old Dominion University, she was the Parade Player of the year.

Donovan was a true trailblazer in women’s basketball, elevating ODU women’s basketball and helping lead the team to a national championship in 1980. She was a two-time gold medalist, standing on the podium with her USA Basketball teammates in 1984 and 1988.

Her family released the following 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.”

“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. 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.”

After her playing career was over, she ventured into the world of coaching and continued to be successful. She lead the WNBA’s Seattle Storm to the championship in 2004, becoming the first woman to lead a league team to the title. Her connection with USA Basketball continued as she led the U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing. Her coaching career also included stints with other WNBA teams including the Charlotte Sting, Indiana Fever, New York Liberty and Connecticut Sun. In addition she was a head coach at Seton Hall University from 2010 to 2013.

The Storm, the Liberty, the Fever and the WNBA president all issued statements on Donovan’s passing.

From Seattle Storm co-owner Lisa Brummel:

“Anne Donovan will always be remembered as a championship coach and a championship person.  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.”

From the Liberty:

The New York Liberty is deeply saddened by the passing of one of the greatest figures in the history of women’s basketball, Anne Donovan. 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. We join the entire women’s basketball community in celebrating her life and extraordinary legacy, and send our thoughts and prayers to her family during this time.

From WNBA president Lisa Borders:

“A decorated player and trailblazing coach, Anne Donovan 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.  On behalf of the WNBA, we extend our deepest sympathies to the Donovan family during this difficult time.”

From Fever president Kelly Krauskopf who hired Donovan as the team’s interim coach for its inaugural season in 2000 while general manager and head coach Nell Fortner concluded her stint as coach of the U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team.:

“Anne Donovan meant a great deal to me, professionally, personally and to our franchise. First and foremost, she was a personal friend of mine. I have lost a friend and someone who’s had an impact on the basketball world, certainly with the Fever. She’ll forever be part of our history. She’s always been a part of our family.”

“We’ve shared a lot of stories and a lot of laughs over that first season. There will never be another first year. And there will never be another Anne Donovan. She was a professional and a class act. The roots of women’s basketball are embedded with her name, and so is our franchise.”

Anne the Trailblazer

Donovan entered the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995 and was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999 and the FIBA Hall of Fame in 2015. The list of her accomplishments as a player and coach is dazzling. From her Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame bio:

  • A three-time Olympian (1980, 1984, 1988)
  • A three-time All-American (1980, 1981, 1982) during her collegiate career at Old Dominion University
  • Helped ODU go 37-1 and win an AIAW National Championship in 1980 as a freshman
  • Scored 2,719 points and collected 1,976 rebounds and 801 blocked shots during her collegiate career, marks which still stand as ODU records
  • Finished her collegiate career averaging a double-double (20.0 ppg and 14.5 rpg)
  • Selected as both the WBCA and Naismith Player of the Year in 1983
  • Was also a two-time Academic All-American (1982, 1983)
  • Played professionally in Japan and Italy for six years

In Remembrance

Soon after ESPN’s Mechelle Voepel broke the news of Donovan’s passing, many in the world of women’s basketball began to post condolences and memories on social media:



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