Former East Carolina coach and Basketball Hall of Famer Anne Donovan, who was part of four Olympic championship teams, died Wednesday of heart failure. She was 56.
Donovan won two gold medals as a player on the 1984 and 1988 U.S. Olympic basketball teams, and she was also on the 1980 team that did not compete because of the boycott of the games in Moscow.
She served as head coach for the team that won gold in Beijing in 2008 and as an assistant on the 2004 gold-medal winning team in Athens, part of a 27-year coaching career that included stops at the college and pro levels. Donovan was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995.
“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,” 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. 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, a 6-foot-8 center, played at Old Dominion from 1979-83, averaging 20 points and 14.5 rebounds and helping the Lady Monarchs claim the 1980 AIAW national championship.
After Olympic successes as a player, she spent six years as an assistant coach at Old Dominion before taking the head job at East Carolina. Then came stints with six WNBA teams, most notably a five-year run with the Seattle Storm, whom Donovan helped to the WNBA title in 2004.
“The tremendous impact Anne Donovan made, not only on ECU, but the entire game of basketball is unprecedented,” ECU women’s coach Heather Macy said. “While we have lost a legend, we are consoled by the lasting memories and a legacy that will certainly continue to inspire our program and the countless of individuals she influenced.”
Donovan last coached in 2015, concluding a three-year run with the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun.
“A decorated player and trailblazing coach, Anne Donovan played a seminal role in the growth of women’s basketball,” WNBA president Lisa Borders said in a statement. “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.”