Former UCLA, Olympic ring coach Moore has died aged 79

Billie Moore, who was the first US Olympic women’s basketball coach and led UCLA to a 1978 national championship, died Wednesday night at her home in California. He is 79 years old.

Moore has been hospitalized with cancer.

She led America to a silver medal at the 1976 Montreal Games, a breakthrough moment for women’s basketball during its debut at the Summer Olympics.

“He was a very organized coach, and he always understood his team line-up,” said 1976 Olympian and Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman. “Like all great coaches, he just felt the game. He helped take my IQ and understanding of basketball to new heights.”

Moore coached Cal State Fullerton to a national championship in 1970, a year before the Women’s Intercollegiate Athletic Association began. In 1978, with a star cast of Ann Meyers, Anita Ortega and Denise Curry, Moore led UCLA to an AIAW national championship.

She coached at Cal State Fullerton from 1969 to 1977 and UCLA from 1977 to 1993. She was the winning UCLA women’s basketball coach (296-181) and 436-196 overall as a college coach.

“It is difficult to put into words the depth of Billie Moore’s influence,” current UCLA women’s coach, Cori Close, said in a statement. “I am keenly aware that I can walk the path Billie Moore has paved. A truly extraordinary life well lived.”

With the Olympic team, Moore coached Tennessee legend Pat Summitt, who coached the Olympic team in 1984. Summitt, who died in 2016, has always credited Moore as one of his most influential mentors.

Moore was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999. She and Summitt were inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame the same year the facility opened in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Born in Humansville, Missouri, in 1943, Moore later moved with his family to Kansas, where he attended high school. He didn’t have the opportunity to play high school basketball but competed for a local industry team. He is also a competitive softball player in industry leagues. He graduated from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas.

US women have competed internationally for many years, including in world championships (now called the FIBA ​​World Cup) since the 1950s. But it took years of lobbying for the Summer Olympics to include women’s basketball. Moore was assistant to the 1975 Pan Am Games team before taking over as Olympic coach.

Moore told ESPN in January that there was virtually no organizational funding available for the US women’s basketball team to train or travel for the 1976 Olympics. Still, women’s basketball stakeholders knew about it, organizing regional test camps.

The team was selected and then held its main training camp at Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg, Missouri, about 70 miles from Moore’s birthplace. The US contingent relies on universities for free lodging and local businesses for donated food.

“Anything we can do, we do on a shoestring budget,” Moore told ESPN. “[Assistant coach] Sue Gunter and I would do anything — speak at the Rotary Club, give clinics or something — to get free food for the team.

“We had about two weeks in Warrensburg to get ready for the Olympics. Then we went to Hamilton, Ontario, to qualify. We won gold there and then had about nine days before the Olympics with no place to stay. The US Olympics committee didn’t plan us until that far.”

Moore enlisted the help of Kodak, a company based in Rochester, New York, that had sponsored an All-American women’s college basketball team. Kodak helped arrange boarding and training at the University of Rochester.

“We live in the dormitory part of there that’s still under construction, to be honest,” said Moore. “We didn’t have a single complaint from the players. They were very happy that we were going to the Olympics. We asked local boys to come help us practice soccer.”

At the 1976 Olympics, the United States went 3-2 in a five-game round-robin format to earn the silver medal behind the undefeated Soviet Union squad.

“It is difficult to put into words the depth of Billie Moore’s influence. I am keenly aware that I can walk the path Billie Moore paved. A truly extraordinary life well lived.”

UCLA women’s basketball coach Cori Close

The United States boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics then won gold under Summitt at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. The US women have won Olympic gold in basketball at every Olympics since then except 1992. The Americans are tied for seven straight gold medals.

“I always think there are moments or milestones that can be like a trampoline to move something forward,” says Moore. “Title IX is one of them. And I think if we can medal at the Montreal Olympics, it can be a springboard for the growth of women’s basketball.”

At UCLA, Moore’s team won 27-3 in 1977-78, defeating Montclair State in the AIAW semifinals and Maryland in the championship game. Meyers was drafted by the Indiana Pacers, even though he did not play for an NBA team. Moore also coached UCLA to the 1979 AIAW Final Four, where the Bruins lost in the semifinals to eventual champion Old Dominion, which was played by Lieberman.

“I can go to Billie in my best moments and my worst times,” says Lieberman. “He was amazing to me. He was more than a mentor. He was a friend. And I know what he did for me, he did for a lot of other people.”

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