Anne Donovan left an indelible mark on the world of basketball. From the college game and the pros to the international scene and beyond, Donovan was a pioneer of the women‘s game and influenced generations to follow. Donovan did it as a player and a coach, touching the lives of all she encountered. As the basketball world struggles to come to grips with her untimely passing, players, family members, coaches and media members shared how the 6-foot-8 icon changed their lives.
The Hall of Famer spoke on ESPN about how seeing the super-tall Donovan play inspired her decision to pursue a career in basketball.
Sue Bird, star guard with the Seattle Storm
“[Lauren Jackson and I] were like 21 and 22 years old. It was an important time in our careers, and we didn’t even really know it. And Anne was there to guide us, in a way that I don’t think any other coach could have at the time.
That was beneficial for me to have someone coaching me who saw the game from a different perspective. It helped make me a better player. And she understood things: what the WNBA meant, what the national team meant, what our overseas careers meant.
... when I broke the [WNBA career] assist record last year, she was one of the first to text me. And the last time I played for her was 2008 ... yet she still always reached out. And every time we saw each other, we’d go right back to those great memories. It was always so good to see her ... it was like coming home when you’d see someone like Anne.”
The retired WNBA star, now in a front-office position with the Indiana Pacers, shared fond memories on social media (as well as shock, sorrow and disbelief).
Words can't express how heavy my heart is right now. Literally just saw Anne this weekend... literally just talked about her coming to Indy so we can hit up @teasmeindy... literally just talked about how good we both looked at the @wbhof ceremony... I will always be thankful for the impact she had on me, not only as a player, but more importantly as a person. Always taking time to pull me to the side to "catch up" on life and just to talk about any and everything. Im literally in shock We're going to miss you Anne! Rest in peace... Love you always❤!! #GoneTooSoon #PrayersUp #RIPAnne #Angel #IMPACT #Champion #Olympian #Inspire #SoBlessed
The Hall of Famer and current head coach of Team USA and the South Carolina Gamecocks shared an endearing nickname that the Charlotte Sting players had for Donovan.
Anne was known by her Charlotte Sting players as Big Sexy. She would blush and glow every time we called her that. She was such a pleasure to play for & work with throughout the years. She was planning to come to our Sept training camp. God’s angel went home #RIPBIGSEXY pic.twitter.com/cgPRl9Cbfy— dawnstaley (@dawnstaley) June 14, 2018
The do-all player who is having a phenomenal season with the Connecticut Sun credited Donovan for giving her a chance and bringing her to a place she now calls home.
Thank you for believing in me & bringing me to a place that has become my home. You gave me an opportunity to be myself + be a leader in Connecticut, and for that I’ll forever be grateful. My thoughts and prayers are with your loved ones. R.I.P. Coach Anne Donovan ❤️ pic.twitter.com/fhecX2nVk9— Jasmine Thomas (@jaszthomas) June 14, 2018
The noted broadcaster shared her favorite photo of Donovan with her equally-storied teammates at Old Dominion University.
I would often tell Anne Donovan this was one of my favorite pictures in all of college basketball...Nancy, Anne, Inge— Debbie Antonelli (@debbieantonelli) June 14, 2018
One of the classic pictures in hoop history.
Coached by Donovan in the Olympics, Milton-Jones expressed shock and grief.
I’m in utter shock and disbelief right now. My heart literally has hit the floor with an overwhelmingly instant feeling of grief. Anne Donovan was #Legendary in so many ways. Anne was my Olympic coach and will never be forgotten. #sad #RipAnne https://t.co/LCOtGStVui— Delisha Milton-Jones (@DelishaMJones) June 14, 2018
WNBA President Lisa Borders
“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.”
Lisa Brummel, co-owner of the Seattle Storm
“Anne Donovan will always be remembered as a championship coach and a championship person. 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.”
Carol Stiff, ESPN
“I’ve known Anne Donovan for a long time, going back to when she and I played basketball against each other in high school. She was then, as she continued to be through the rest of her life, a tenacious competitor, a skilled coach and a warm friend. We will always remember Anne for her amazing accomplishments, but also her off-the-court friendships and love for life.”
Nancy Lieberman, former Old Dominion teammate
“From my generation in the 1970s to now, we all cared about each other and stayed in touch. I just talked to Annie about a month ago. I was just remembering how in college, she’d come into my room and we’d just talk about our families, our goals. She was from New Jersey, I was from New York. We always understood each other. She was an icon as a human being.”
Family of Anne Donovan
“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 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. We appreciate your respect for our family’s privacy during this very sad time.”
May her soaring spirit and strong contributions never be forgotten.