At 6-foot-8, Anne Donovan towered over opponents on the court, but stood even taller off of it with her contributions to USA Basketball and the sport as a whole.
Donovan died Wednesday at the age of 56 due to heart failure, leaving a lasting legacy as a decorated player, coach and pioneer of women’s basketball in the United States.
A native of Ridgewood, New Jersey, Donovan was a two-time state champion in high school before going on to play at Old Dominion. With the Lady Monarchs, she won the first-ever women’s Naismith College Player of the Year award in 1983.
With no professional league at the time in the U.S., Donovan played her pro ball overseas. But it was with Team USA where she perhaps starred the most, winning Olympic gold medals in 1984 and 1988.
She was hired at her alma mater as an assistant in 1989. She went on to become a head coach in the WNBA, winning a championship with the Seattle Storm in 2004.
While coaching in the WNBA, Donovan served as an assistant with Team USA, starting with the 1998 FIBA World Championship. She was an assistant on the 2004 U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team that won gold, and took over as head coach in 2006. Donovan led Team USA to its fourth straight gold medal in 2008, her final coaching stint with USA Basketball and a feat that made her the first (and to this day only) woman to win Olympic basketball gold as both player and coach.
In a statement, USA Basketball said: “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."
Anne Donovan coaches against China during their women's basketball preliminary game at the Olympic Games Beijing 2008 on Aug. 11, 2008 in Beijing.