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.
- Old Dominion obituary
- Photos: Remembering the legendary career of Old Dominion’s Anne Donovan
- Anne Donovan played essential role in growth of women’s basketball (ESPN)
- Obituary from Andrews Mortuary
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
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:
It pains me to share that we @ODUSports lost our own Ann Donovan today. She was loved for her humility, strength, humor and legendary skills @Hoophall My friend walked me into the Hall in 96. I love u n already miss u my sister. #monarchs4life
— Nancy Lieberman (@NancyLieberman) June 14, 2018
A truly tragic day in women's basketball: legendary player and coach Anne Donovan has passed away at age 56 from heart failure. Devastating news. A wonderful person and so important in women's sports.
— Mechelle Voepel (@MechelleV) June 13, 2018
Anyone who crossed paths with Anne Donovan is crushed by this awful news. She was a kind, thoughtful person who gave so much to basketball. She was just at the Hall of Fame ceremonies in Knoxville this weekend, where her former HS coach, Rose Marie Battaglia, was inducted.
— Mechelle Voepel (@MechelleV) June 13, 2018
Anne Donovan had an enormous impact on American sports. She was national champion college player, an Olympic gold medalist as a player and coach, and a WNBA champion as a coach. She touched countless lives and greatly moved women's basketball forward.
— Mechelle Voepel (@MechelleV) June 13, 2018
Talked with Nancy Lieberman, Anne Donovan's ODU teammate and friend. She said through tears, "She was an icon as a human being. Annie was so quiet and kind, but she was such a competitor. She was never looking for the limelight. Whatever she touched, she did it the right way."
— Mechelle Voepel (@MechelleV) June 14, 2018
Stunned to hear of Anne Donovan's passing, the first woman to win the Naismith College POY Award in 1983. She was active in our organization, truly one of our most ardent supporters. We join the WBB community in mourning her passing, but also celebrating her remarkable life.
— The Naismith Trophy (@NaismithTrophy) June 14, 2018
We are saddened to learn of the passing of former head coach Anne Donovan. She was a legendary figure in the game of women’s basketball and we extend our condolences to her friends and family. pic.twitter.com/W0VdHxnOvk
— Connecticut Sun (@ConnecticutSun) June 14, 2018
Anne Donovan was simply one of the BEST human beings EVER to walk this earth. It has been an honor and privilege to call her friend. Her Sweet and Loving Spirit will always be remembered.
— Gail Goestenkors (@gailgoes10) June 14, 2018
Beautiful Annie, such a tragic loss. I love you dearly and you will always be so close to my heart. #Shattered ???RIP Anne. You will be missed by so many xxx
— Lauren Jackson AO OLY (@laurenej15) June 14, 2018
The Great Anne Donovan, 6’8”. I have always been convinced she was all of that in heart and humility. Loved her.
RIP Anne, so glad and thankful we exchanged a heartfelt hug at the @WBHOF this past weekend.
— Beth Bass (@bass_ew) June 14, 2018
So sad to hear about the passing of Anne Donovan. A legend in our game…but most importantly a great human being.
— Carol Owens (@GoIrishCoachO) June 14, 2018
I had the honor of coaching Anne Donovan on the 1988 Olympic Team. I’ll never forget how excited she was when she blocked Uljana Semjonova’s shot (7’2” Center for USSR) Best play & defining moment of the Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea! RIP Anne! https://t.co/BgctLIpJYV
— Sylvia R. Hatchell (@UNCWBBCoach) June 14, 2018
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Anne Donovan. Her legacy as a player and coach will always be remembered. pic.twitter.com/8Ii8Td37c0
— Washington Mystics (@WashMystics) June 14, 2018
Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Anne Donovan. A true legend and pioneer in the game. https://t.co/P51ux6h3vO
— Texas Women's Basketball (@TexasWBB) June 14, 2018
This hurts. Anne Donovan is a legend in my hometown for what she did at ODU…Rest in Peace ? https://t.co/flXJt6f8bC
— Marie. (@MrieMlone) June 13, 2018
Anne Donovan was a wonderful person and a great human being. She impacted our game and touched many lives along the way including mine. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Donovan family. #Legendary
— Nikki Mccray (@NikkiMccray15) June 14, 2018
I’m in utter shock and disbelief right now. My heart literally has hit the floor with an overwhelmingly instant feeling of grief. Anne Donovan was #Legendary in so many ways. Anne was my Olympic coach and will never be forgotten. #sad? #RipAnne https://t.co/LCOtGStVui
— Delisha Milton-Jones (@DelishaMJones) June 14, 2018
Anne Donovan was an amazing person. Not a mean bone in her body. My coach @usabasketball, a supporter and friend. Anne knew how to make me smile. Kind and sweet but still a tough and demanding coach. A TRUE Players coach. Loved her. Be present w/ everyone, #lifeisfragile
— Michelle M. Marciniak (@mmarciniak3) June 14, 2018
So sad to hear Anne Donovan, an icon in our game, a mentor, but most importantly a treasured friend, has passed away. Anne was a caring and special soul. She made the world a better place and will be deeply missed.
— Heidi VanDerveer (@Hoops4Heidi) June 14, 2018
What a sad day for our women’s basketball family. Anne Donovan’s passion and love for our game should never be denied. Make no mistake -she was one of the first to put our game on the map. And a truly good human being. Thoughts and prayers to Anne’s family. God speed Anne!!
— Lisa Boyer (@Coachboyer) June 14, 2018
— Karen Barefoot (@UNCWBarefoot) June 14, 2018
First met Anne Donovan working camps at ODU for Marianne Stanley. Anne was always so kind to me and I enjoyed talking post play with her. Had an impact on @sylvia_fowles as Olympic coach. #WillBeMissed pic.twitter.com/nuuQR2u0xq
— BobStarkey (@CoachBobStarkey) June 14, 2018
Rest In Peace Anne Donovan. You were an inspiration to young women around the world and took our game to new heights. Your impact will never be forgotten.
— Harry Perretta (@VUCoachPerretta) June 14, 2018
Our thoughts & prayers go out to all of Anne Donovan’s family and friends She was a trailblazer for women’s basketball as a player a coach and a mentor. Olympic Gold, Hall of Fames & Championships. She was a genuine, caring and great person!!!! You will be missed tremendously pic.twitter.com/xCExsgS358
— UNCW Women's Basketball (@UNCWwomenshoops) June 14, 2018
I am sadden by Anne Donovan’s passing. She coached my sis @DanielleKoonce at ECU and me in the ABL. Death never comes at the right time. The Melvin family sends its deepest condolences to her family, friends and the entire BBall sisterhood. Gone but not forgotten Rest easy HOF
— Chasity Melvin (@chasitymelvin) June 14, 2018
My heart is broken tonite hearing this. Truly heartbroken. Truly a sad day for our sport. What a pioneer of our game. Please let’s wrap our arms around Anne’s family! RIP ANNE! https://t.co/IESuxGJJq0
— dawnstaley (@dawnstaley) June 13, 2018
We are deeply saddened by the loss of former Storm head coach Anne Donovan. She will be truly missed, and we extend our most sincere condolences to the Donovan family. pic.twitter.com/8HLNQvCoTz
— Seattle Storm (@seattlestorm) June 14, 2018
A legacy that will never be forgotten.
Rest In Peace, Anne. ? pic.twitter.com/7gpiQTrEl7
— NCAA Women’s Basketball (@ncaawbb) June 14, 2018
USA Basketball mourns the passing of Anne Donovan. As much as we remember her accomplishments in the game and contributions to USA Basketball, we mourn an incredible friend who will be greatly missed. pic.twitter.com/5ubYnmofBh
— USA Basketball (@usabasketball) June 14, 2018