Anne Donovan, Hall of Famer & Olympic gold medalist, dies at 56

Anne Donovan, Hall of Famer & Olympic gold medalist, dies at 56
Anne Donovan, former Olympic athlete and basketball Hall of Famer, has died of heart failure at 56. (Source: WECT)
Anne Donovan, who lived in Wilmington, was an Olympic athlete and coach. She showed us some of her medals in an interview in 2016. (Source: WECT)
Anne Donovan, who lived in Wilmington, was an Olympic athlete and coach. She showed us some of her medals in an interview in 2016. (Source: WECT)

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Anne Donovan, a former Olympic athlete and Basketball Hall of Famer, died of heart failure Wednesday at age 56.

A public memorial service is scheduled for June 30 at 3 p.m. at Paramus Catholic High School in Paramus, N.J.

Donovan was a Wilmington resident and in 2004, she became the first female coach and youngest person (42) to win a WNBA title.

She helped lead the United States to a gold medal in the 1984 and '88 Summer Olympics and went on to become an assistant coach during the 2004 Olympic Games in Greece. Donovan was the US head coach during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where the Americans again won gold.

"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," Donovan's family said in a statement.

"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."

In an interview in 2016, Donovan, who was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995, talked about her Olympic experiences.

"It's such a special period of my life, of course as a player, but also as a coach in 2008," said Donovan, who was a member of the inaugural Women's Basketball Hall of Fame class in 1999. "My entire family was there, all my seven brothers and sisters were there watching."

The news of Donovan's death hit UNCW women's coach Karen Barefoot hard.

"I am devastated," said Barefoot, who coached at Old Dominion, where Donovan played college ball. "Anne was one of my idols. I am truly heartbroken."

Earlier this year, the 6-foot-8 Donovan was featured on the "1on1 with Jon Evans" podcast and reflected on her stellar career.

"Just internationally being recognized for what I did as a player," she says. "But it's really the memories that mean the most, and I know that sounds hokey. But it was a very special time in my life to be able to play for as long as I did, and to carry it into the coaching ranks which I never in my life thought I would do. Basketball has been a very special part of my life."

RELATED: Anne Donovan: Champion, Hall of Famer & Gold Medalist ("1on1 with Jon Evans" podcast)

Donovan won a national championship during her playing days at Old Dominion then played professionally in Japan and Italy before beginning her coaching career.

In high school, she was one of the most sought-after female basketball players, receiving more than 250 offers from colleges.

Donovan's former players and other basketball notables took to social media Wednesday night to express their grief and show gratitude for Donovan.

Copyright 2018 WECT. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.