Anne Donovan, a Ridgewood native and legendary figure in women's basketball, died Wednesday of heart failure. She was 56.
"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."
Donovan was raised in Ridgewood and went to high school at Paramus Catholic in Paramus, where she led the basketball team to consecutive undefeated seasons, including two state championships. She averaged 25 points per game and 17 rebounds her senior year.
She was the first female at Old Dominion College to earn the Naismith College Player of the Year in 1983.
Donovan went on to play for the 1984 and 1988 Olympic gold-medal winning teams.
She guided the WNBA's Seattle Storm to their first title in 2004, becoming the first woman and youngest person to coach a WNBA championship team.
Donovan joined the New York Liberty as an assistant coach in the spring of 2009, then took over as interim head coach of the Liberty on July 31, 2009.
She began her WNBA coaching career as the interim head coach with the expansion Indiana Fever in 2000, then spent two seasons (2001 and 2002) with the Charlotte Sting.
She also coached the 2008 U.S. women's basketball team to a gold medal in Beijing and was an assistant coach for the 2004 Olympic team in Athens.
Donovan was inducted to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995, and as part of the inaugural class of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999.
She resigned as head coach of WNBA's Connecticut Sun on Oct. 1, 2015.
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