Women’s basketball pioneer Billie Moore dies at 79


CNN  — 

Billie Moore – the head coach of the first US women’s Olympic basketball team, the first head coach to lead two schools to national championships in women’s basketball and a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame – died Wednesday at the age of 79.

Her death was announced by UCLA, where she led the Bruins to an Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women national championship in 1978 and the Naismith Hall of Fame, on Thursday.

The UCLA athletics department said Moore had been battling multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells that suppresses the body’s immune response, and she died at her home in Fullerton, California, surrounded by family and friends.

“Billie Moore was a trailblazer as a head coach and among a very small group of individuals that laid the foundation for where women’s basketball is today,” Naismith Hall of Fame president and CEO John L. Doleva said. “Her impact on the basketball community knows no boundaries, and she will be missed by the entire Hall of Fame family.”

Moore, who coached UCLA from 1977 to 1993, holds the record for most wins (296) by a women’s head basketball coach in program history.

Before coaching UCLA, Moore was the head coach for the first US women’s Olympic basketball team in 1976. With players such as Pat Summitt, Ann Meyers Drysdale, Lusia Harris and Nancy Lieberman, Moore led Team USA to the silver medal at the Summer Games in Montreal.

Moore, who was born in Westmoreland, Kansas, also led Cal State Fullerton to a national title in 1970. She was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame and Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999.

“One of the things that, when I received the call, that was foremost in my mind was that I’m being inducted as coach in a team sport,” she said at her enshrinement. “And when you are in a team sport, you’re not here because of something you did yourself. It is obvious that this award is shared with a lot of people that have played a very important part down through the years and it belongs to a lot of people.”

She credited her father with giving her a love and passion for the game. She told the audience she had hoped her career wouldn’t be based on wins and losses but in the lifelong friends she made on the court.

Overall, Moore compiled a collegiate record of 436-196 for a .690 winning percentage.

Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Executive Director Danielle Donehew said Moore was a giant who paved the way for other female coaches.

“Most importantly Billie was a teacher who continued to share her wisdom with former student-athletes and colleagues like Pat Summitt, her mentee, long after Billie retired as a coach,” she said.

“I met Billie while working for Pat and will forever cherish her wisdom and humor. Billie’s impact on our sport survives her through the multitude of lives, mine included, she touched.”