To many in the world of women's basketball, Anne Donovan was a giant. And not just because she stood 6-foot-8. She won a national championship at Old Dominion, two Olympic gold medals as a player, and another as a coach in her storied career. The 56-year-old Hall of Famer died Wednesday of heart failure, her family said in a statement. "One of the greater basketball players in her time slot," Las Vegas Aces coach Bill Laimbeer said, per the AP. "She stood out for her height, but also her playing ability and continued that throughout her whole life, coaching, her ambassadorship. You name it, she did it." Donovan was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995, was part of the inaugural class of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999, and was inducted into the International Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015.
"Anne was a giant in every sense of the word, and I know the women's basketball community is saddened beyond words by this tragic news," said Val Ackerman, who was the WNBA's first president. "She was a pioneer and icon in the women's game and made a profound and lasting impact at all levels as a player, coach, colleague, and friend." Donovan led the Seattle Storm to the WNBA championship in 2004, becoming the first female coach and the youngest person (42) to win a title in the league. Donovan also coached the WNBA's Indiana Fever, Charlotte Sting, New York Liberty, and Connecticut Sun, working there from 2013-15. The New Jersey native also coached at Seton Hall for a few years. She won Olympic gold medals in 1984 and 1988.