Billie Moore, trailblazing Hall-of-Fame U.S. Olympics and UCLA coach, dies at 79

Billie Moore coached the U.S. Olympic and UCLA women's basketball teams. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)
Billie Moore coached the U.S. Olympic and UCLA women's basketball teams. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)

Billie Moore, a pioneer in women's basketball, died of cancer Wednesday night, according to the Los Angeles Times. She was 79.

Moore, a member of both the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, coached two collegiate teams to national championships during her 24-year career – Cal State Fullerton in 1970 and UCLA in 1978 – becoming the first women's basketball coach to do so. Her teams also made the Final Four in 1970, 1972, 1975, 1978 and 1979. She finished with a career win-loss record of 436-196.

Moore also became the first head coach of the U.S. women's Olympic basketball team in 1976 after she was an assistant coach for the national team at the Pan American Games in Mexico City and the World University Games in Moscow. Moore's Olympic team won the silver medal in Montreal with a team that featured another women's basketball icon: the late Pat Summitt, who went on to become one of the most successful women's basketball coaches of all time at Tennessee and also made the Hall of Fame.

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Other Hall of Famers who played for Moore on the U.S. team included Lusia Harris, Nancy Lieberman and Ann Meyers Drysdale.

"Our John Wooden" is how Meyers Drysdale, described the legendary coach to the Times. “She truly has been a gift to us in the women’s game.”

Jackie Joyner-Kersee, who played for Moore at UCLA before she went on to win three gold, one silver and two bronze medals at various Summer Olympics in track and field, also explained her gratitude to her former coach to the Times.

“I will forever be grateful and thankful for her friendship beyond the basketball court,” Joyner-Kersee said. “Billie gave me an opportunity to pursue my dream of becoming a Bruin.”

Other icons in the sport mourned the loss of Moore, including Lieberman as well as South Carolina women's basketball coach Dawn Staley.

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