Anne Donovan, the Basketball Hall of Famer who won a National Championship at Old Dominion University in 1983, died Wednesday June 13th, 2018. She was 56 years old. Donovan remained connected to the greater Philadelphia area after growing up in Ridgewood, New Jersey and attending Paramus Catholic High School. In 2013, Anne Donovan was honored at Neumann University as the recipient of the Institute for Sport, Spirituality, and Character Development Award.
“It was a unique privilege having Anne as a friend,” stated Sister Marguerite O’Briene, vice president for mission and ministry of Neumann University. “Anne exemplified all that is good in sports. She reached out to those who in any way needed a helping hand and used her recognition as a nationally acclaimed athlete to leverage support from those who were in positions of power to make a positive difference in our world.”
Donovan was a legend in women’s basketball, winning the gold medal in the Olympics twice as a player (1984 – Los Angeles, 1988 – South Korea) and once as a coach in 2008 in Beijing, China. The 6-foot-8 center coached both in college and the WNBA. She became the first female coach and the youngest person (42) to win a title in the WNBA, guiding the Seattle Storm to a championship in 2004. She also coached the Indiana Fever, the Charlotte Sting, New York Liberty and Connecticut Sun, working there from 2013-15. The New Jersey native also coached at Seton Hall for two years.
“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,” her family’s statement continued. “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.”
Anne Donovan stood tall as a pioneer for female athletes and was simply kind and generous beyond measure. After Donovan’s team won the gold in the ’84 Olympic Games, Donovan’s philanthropic spirit truly shone through. When Renee Keister Balke, a promising young basketball star who excelled in soccer and softball, was seriously injured in an accident at home, the school community of McCorristin Catholic High School in Trenton, New Jersey came together to assist. At the time, Sister Marguerite O’Berine was the principal at the school and reached out to Anne which helped unite the community to support Renee and her family. Sister Marguerite thought what better way to raise needed funds for a young athlete than bring some of the Olympians to Trenton? Anne generously answered the request to play against a team of Trenton old timers and her generous response lead to an amazing fund-raising effort, which benefited someone whom she had never even met. This act signified not only how she values athletic skill, but most importantly how she values the great gift of life itself.
“Anne Donovan will always be remembered as a championship coach and a championship person,” the Seattle Storm said in a statement. “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.”