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Former USA coach and player Anne Donovan passes away at 56

COLORADO SPRINGS - Anne Donovan, who won gold medals at the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games and the 1986 FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup with the USA, passed away on Wednesday from heart failure at the age of 56.

Donovan was inducted into the FIBA Hall of Fame in 2015 and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995. She was a member of the inaugural class of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999. 

She was also a player on the 1980 USA Olympic Team which did not compete in Moscow and guided the team as head coach to a gold medal at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

With no domestic opportunity at the time, Donovan played professionally in Japan and Italy but she was always there when her country called.

A statement from Donovan's family read: "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."

Dominant as a 6ft 8in (2.03m) center, Donovan was just as impactful as a coach at both the collegiate and professional levels.

She became the first female coach and the youngest coach (at age 42) to win a title in the WNBA, guiding the Seattle Storm to a championship in 2004.

"Anne Donovan will always be remembered as a championship coach and a championship person," said the Seattle Storm 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.”

Donovan also coached the WNBA’s Indiana Fever, Charlotte Sting, New York Liberty and Connecticut Sun.  On the collegiate level, Donovan coached as an assistant at her alma mater Old Dominion, before becoming head coach at East Carolina and Seton Hall.

USA, WNBA and EuroLeague Women veteran Tina Charles, who played for Donovan with the Connecticut Sun, was hit hard by the loss.

"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," she said. "For me, it [stinks] because I always wanted to text her, thank you for being hard on me."