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Thursday, June 14, 2018

Anne Donovan dies...Today Is Flag Day -- THURSDAY CARDINAL COUPLE


Anne Donovan, a women's collegiate and professional coach of immense stature and respectability in the basketball community, has passed away at the age of 56. 

Donovan, who was 6'8", coached several NCAA squads...Old Dominion, East Carolina and Seton Hall...and also prowled the sidelines for several WNBA squads. She won the WNBA Title in 2004 coaching the Seattle Storm. Anne also had an amazing playing career...going to the 1984 and 1988 Olympics to represent the USA. She was also a Hall of Fame inductee. Anne won a national championship during her playing days at ODU. 

Back in 1984, there was no WNBA. Collegiate players like Anne had to go overseas to continue their playing careers after graduation. Anne did...for five years...before retiring and becoming an assistant coach at her alma mater. 

My memories of her focus on her visit to Louisville and the newly opened KFC YUM! Center back in the 2010-11 season. The Cards were in the Big East then...and were playing their final regular season home of the year. A Saturday afternoon event and it was Senior Day. At 18-10 and 9-5 in Big East play...Louisville was coming off an impressive win over #7 DePaul on Wednesday night 68-55. 

Anne was bringing in a Seton Hall squad that wasn't faring nearly as well. The Pirates entered the downtown arena with an 8-19 record and 1-13 in the conference. She was easily the tallest person on the sidelines and as I entered the Arena, she was stoically watching her squad warm-up. 

The Cards got off to a slow start that night and trailed 6-2 before Tia Gibbs and Monique Reid assumed control of the contest. Louisville held the Pirates scoreless for abut four minutes and held a 28-21 halftime lead. Anne was non-stop on the sidelines, shouting out instructions and occasionally giving the referees a piece of her mind. Keisha Hines started the second half strong for Louisville, Asia Taylor had an impressive second half and Louisville eventually took the contest....leading by 22 at one point before taking a 59-49 win. Walz substituted pretty much the final ten minutes of the game and the Pirates went on a game ending 15-3 run to get back within 10. 

I remember Donovan not giving up. Not sitting on the bench with a disgruntled look or head in hands. Actively encouraging her squad, pointing out things on the court and pacing the sidelines. 

Checking the Cardinal Couple recap of that game, David Watson was in town and contributed to the Cardinal Couple column the next day. He wrote: 

DAVID WATSON was in the stands for the Seton Hall game with his youngest daughter and files this report...(We like the fact that David is in town for two days...and is taking us out to eat Sunday Night.) 
It was a good day for being in downtown Louisville yesterday. The pizza at Impelliezeri's post game is always top notch and the weather conductive to strolling down 4th Street Live after. The action in the KFC YUM Center was less than perfect but it goes to show what I've been saying for the last couple weeks...Seton Hall isn't the push-over patsy that most people consider them to be. Anne Donovan has made big strides coaching this young team ( 1 senior, 7 freshmen and sophomores) this season and will continue to do so. Watching Anne on the sidelines (she's hard to miss at 6'8") is a lesson in coaching. She is on top of each and every play, rotating between shouting out assignment and switches to her players, keeping a rolling and lively dialogue going with any officials within earshot and talking to her assistants. Anne, like Jeff Walz, doesn't spend much time sitting down. 
Her players are hustling, aggressive competitors that may have skill sets a bit behind the cream of the league but won't get out-worked. Give her a couple of years and the battle for women's college basketball supremacy in Jersey might just tighten up a bit.

Anne didn't quite fulfill the prophecy David predicted for her but he was perfect in describing her efforts.  
Two years later, she brought the Pirates back to the YUM! and suffered another 10-point loss to the Cards. This was after she'd announced she'd be leaving Seton Hall at the end of the season to take over the head coaching job with the Connecticut Sun. By then, the "newness" of this tall woman on the sidelines had worn off and my memories of that contest aren't as clear. That, of course, was the year that Louisville marched to the NCAA Championship Game against UCONN. The upset of Baylor...the Easter miracle in Oklahoma City...there were quite a few things to celebrate that season. 

Jenny O'Bryan had the write up for that 2013 contest but didn't write about Anne. It was Senior Day and the Cards were graduating the original "Attack Yorkie" -- Shelby Harper and Monique Reid. 

I reached out to Coach Walz about Anne and he provided these thoughts about her: 

"Her passing is a tragic loss for basketball. Anne was a pioneer in the game. When I coached against her in the Seton Hall games, she was always very kind and gracious. When she shook your hand, it was sincere and she was always passionate about the game we love." 

The eventuality of life assures us of several things. We all are going to die, we'll lose close friends along the way to death and the rest of the world will carry on after we're gone.

Remembrance of the departed, the stories that will be told...are the debatable part. How will you (or I) be remembered? Did you "live" your life, or watch it pass by? 

I like the remembrances of Anne that David wrote back then and I commented on also. She was an integral part of helping WBB in general gain the respect and headlines it truly deserves. We'll remember Anne fondly. I'd like to think she's gone to that "big gym in the sky" and I have no doubt that she's on the sidelines coaching one of the heavenly all-star teams or striding the court against putting moves on post-defenders. 

I never got the chance to interview Anne. Of that, I have regrets. How nice and informative it would have been to talk to her about her experiences and stories. 

Go easy, Anne. Your memory and legacy will live on forever. 


For those who like the recently Jared-neglected commentary on what day it is, it's Flag Day! Is yours up and being proudly displayed? 

I fly two each and every day. The American and the Cardinal. I am an American and proud of it. I'm a Cardinal and damn proud of that as well. 

A bit of audio to go with the occasion? Sure, you bet! 




  1. It is important to remember the pioneers of women's basketball and what they did. Great article today, Paulie. And, yes, the Franklin flag flies proudly each and every day at my parents' place. I do the apartment thing and the complex doesn't have a flag pole. Communist!

    My Dad remembers me asking if we were related to Ben Franklin when I was a little boy. He just chuckled. "Not unless he was a brother or had a love child." was his response.

    Curtis "Stars and bars forever" Franklin

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


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