Basketball player and coach
Born: November 1, 1961, in Ridgewood, New Jersey
Died: June 13, 2018, in Wilmington, North Carolina
New Jersey Hall of Fame, Class of 2018: Sports
Anne Donovan was, in a word, a winner. As a dominating center, she won a national championship in college and two Olympic gold medals. As a revered coach, she won a WNBA championship and more Olympic gold.
Donovan began her hoops career at Paramus Catholic High School, leading the school to two state championships. After receiving offers from more than 250 schools, she chose to attend Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. During her years at ODU, the team won a national championship in 1980 and reached the first two women’s Final Four tournaments in 1982 and 1983. Ultimately, Donovan set ODU career marks for points (2,719), rebounds (1,976) and blocked shots (801).
A three-time Olympian, Donovan earned gold medals in 1984 and 1988. She also won gold playing for two USA Women’s Pan American Teams in 1983 and 1987, and at the inaugural Goodwill Games in Moscow in July 1986.
With few opportunities at the time for female basketball players in the U.S., the 6-foot-8 Donovan played for professional teams in Japan and Italy from 1984 to 1989. Returning to the States, she became an assistant coach at ODU from 1989 to 1995, then head coach at East Carolina University. She moved to the professional ranks in 1997, coaching the Philadelphia Rage of the short-lived American Basketball League. Switching to the WNBA, she coached the Indiana Fever, Charlotte Sting and Seattle Storm. Under Donovan’s leadership, the Storm won the national championship in 2004.
In 2008, Donovan served as head coach of the Olympic gold medalist U.S. Women’s Basketball team. She was later assistant coach and interim head coach for the New York Liberty, and from 2010 to 2013, head coach of the Seton Hall University women’s basketball program. She finished her professional coaching career with the Connecticut Sun in 2015.
Donovan entered the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995, and became a member of the FIBA Hall of Fame in 2015 (recognizing international achievements on the court). She was also a member of the inaugural class at the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999.
The only person to have played for a women’s college championship team and coached a team to a professional title, Donovan earned the respect of her follow players and those she coached at all levels.
At the 2018 New Jersey Hall of Fame induction ceremony, fellow basketball legend Carol Blazejowski said of Donovan: “Anne singlehandedly revolutionized the way the center position was played in the women’s game with her height and adept style of play, and she became one the most dominating scorers, rebounders and shot-blockers of all time.”