Anne Donovan, the Basketball Hall of Famer who won a national championship at Old Dominion, two Olympic gold medals as a player and another as a coach, died Wednesday of heart failure. She was 56.
Her family confirmed the death in a statement.
Ms. Donovan was at the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn., 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 into the FIBA Hall of Fame in 2015.
The 6-foot-8 centre coached both in college and the WNBA. She became the first female coach and the youngest person (age 42) to win a title in the WNBA, guiding the Seattle Storm to a championship in 2004.
Ms. Donovan was a member of three Olympics teams as a player. The 1980 team did not go to Russia because of a boycott. The team won the gold in 1984 and ’88 and she coached the winning 2008 team.
Other teams she coached included the WNBA’s Indiana Fever, the Charlotte Sting, New York Liberty and Connecticut Sun, working there from 2013-15.
Tina Charles, who played for Ms. Donovan on the Connecticut Sun, was hit hard by news of her former coach’s death. “It hurt bad. To be totally honest, she was the only coach I ever played for that challenged me and forced me to be better,” Ms. Charles said.
Ms. Donovan played professionally in Japan and Italy. After retiring, she was an assistant at Old Dominion and then coached at East Carolina from 1995-98. She coached the Philadelphia Rage in the American Basketball League in 1997-98.
“Anne was a giant in every sense of the word and I know the women’s basketball community is saddened beyond words by this tragic news,” said Val Ackerman, who was the WNBA’s first president. “She was a pioneer and icon in the women’s game and made a profound and lasting impact at all levels as a player, coach, colleague and friend.”