Basketball Hall of Famer, Old Dominion University legend Anne Donovan passes away

NORFOLK, Va. - Anne Donovan, who helped lead the Old Dominion women's basketball team to the 1980 national championship, died Wednesday at the age of 56. ESPN's Michelle Voepel first reported the news - confirmed by Donovan's family. Voepel reports Donovan died of heart failure.

Anne Donovan of the United States during a game against Korea. (Photo: Alvin Chung /Allsport)

A three-time Olympian (1980, 1984, 1988) as a player, Donovan was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995.

A statement from Donovan’s family reads:

“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. 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.”

A dominant star for Old Dominion from 1979 to 1983, Donovan helped guide ODU to three Final Four appearances. Anne completed her four years at ODU with a 3.5 cumulative average in her major of leisure studies and became the all-time leading scorer and rebounder in ODU history with 2,719 points and 1,976 rebounds. She is still the NCAA's all-time shot blocker with 801.

“We are deeply saddened to have lost one of the all-time greats to ever play the game of women’s basketball," ODU Director of Athletics Dr. Wood Selig said in a statement. "Few have or ever will enjoy the type of success Anne has experienced throughout her career. Throughout her college and professional career Anne was one of ODU’s best ambassadors both for the institution and Lady Monarch basketball. Anne’s legacy will be permanent and ever lasting and will forever remain as the foundation upon which the Lady Monarch brand become national and synonymous with success.”

Anne Donovan of the United States. (Photo by Mark Dadswell/Getty Images)

As head coach, Donovan led Team USA to the gold medal in the 2008 Olympic games - making her the first woman to ever win Olympic gold as a player and coach. According to ODUSports.com, Donovan returned to ODU in 1987 as a part-time assistant basketball coach. She was later elevated to full time assistant and remained at Old Dominion until 1997. In 2004, she guided the Seattle Storm to the WNBA title as head coach.

In a statement, WNBA President Lisa Borders said:

"A decorated player and trailblazing coach, Anne Donovan played a seminal role in the growth of women's basketball. 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. On behalf of the WNBA, we extend our deepest sympathies to the Donovan family during this difficult time."

In addition to the Basketball Hall of Fame, Donovan is also enshrined in the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, the ODU Sports Hall of Fame, the GTE/CoSIDA Academic All-American Hall of Fame, and the Hampton Roads Sports Hall of Fame.

Seattle Storm coach Anne Donovan and players celebrate their WNBA title. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Her bio on the website of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame reads:

At a time when women's basketball was gaining national exposure, Anne Donovan, a 6-foot 8-inch center, was the game's premier player. Although aggressive, Donovan always played under control. From 1979 to 1983, she dominated women's college basketball like no player before her. Donovan owned the area under the basket and averaged double figures in points and rebounds in her college career to go along with 801 blocked shots, a record at the time of her enshrinement. As a freshman, she powered Old Dominion University to a 37-1 record and the 1979 AIAW national championship. Donovan later guided ODU to the NCAA Final Four in 1983, earning her the Naismith Player of the Year award. A three-time Olympian (1980, 1984, 1988), Donovan led the United States to gold medal victories in 1984 and 1988. Her international playing experience also included the Goodwill Games in 1986, the Pan American Games in 1983 and 1987, the World University Games in 1981, the R. Williams Jones Cup in 1984, and the Olympic Festivals in 1978 and 1979.