Billie Moore, who was the first US Olympic women’s basketball coach and led UCLA to the national championship in 1978, died Wednesday night at her home in California. She was 79.
Moore was in a hospice with cancer.
She led the Americans to a silver medal at the 1976 Montreal Games, a breakthrough for women’s basketball in its Summer Olympics debut.
“She was a very organized coach and she always understood the composition of her team,” said Nancy Lieberman, 1976 Olympic gold medalist and Hall of Famer. “Like all great coaches, she just had a feel for the game. She helped me take my basketball IQ and understanding to a new level.”
Moore coached Cal State Fullerton to a national championship in 1970, a year before the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women was formed. In 1978, Moore led UCLA to the AIAW National Championship with star players Ann Meyers, Anita Ortega and Denise Curry.
She trained at Cal State Fullerton from 1969 to 1977 and at UCLA from 1977 to 1993. She is UCLA’s all-time leading basketball coach (296-181) and is a 436-196 collegiate coach overall.
“It’s hard to put into words the impact of Billie Moore,” current UCLA women’s coach Cori Close said in a statement. “I’m very aware that I get to walk the path that Billie Moore paved. A truly remarkable life, well lived.”
With the Olympic team, Moore coached Tennessee legend Pat Summitt, who coached the 1984 Olympic team. Summitt, who died in 2016, always credited Moore as one of her 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 that facility opened in Knoxville, Tennessee.
USA Basketball honors the life and legacy of Billie Moore, who was the first female coach of the US Olympic Women’s 1976 and led USA to a silver medal.
Her eventful career spanned four decades. We are proud to have been part of their journey. Our thoughts are with their loved ones at this time. pic.twitter.com/EsLllxRWo9
— USA Basketball (@usabasketball) December 15, 2022
Born in 1943 in Humansville, Missouri, Moore later moved with her family to Kansas, where she attended high school. She did not have the opportunity to play high school basketball but competed for a local industry team. She was also a competitive softball player in an industry league. She graduated from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas.
US women have competed internationally for years, including at the 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 an assistant on the 1975 Pan Am Games team before becoming an Olympic coach.
Moore told ESPN in January that there is virtually no organizational means for the US women’s basketball team to train or travel for the 1976 Olympics. Still, women’s basketball advocacy groups found out and organized regional tryouts.
The team was selected and then had their primary training camp at Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg, Missouri, about 70 miles from Moore’s birthplace. The US contingent relied on the university for free housing and local businesses for donated meals.
“Whatever we could do, we didn’t do it on even a tight budget,” Moore told ESPN. “[Assistant coach] Sue Gunter and I would do anything — to speak at a Rotary club, give a clinic, or whatever — to get a free meal for the team.
“We had about two weeks in Warrensburg to prepare for the Olympics. Then we went to Hamilton, Ontario to qualify. We won gold there and then had no place to stay for about nine days before the Olympics. The US Olympiad The committee didn’t plan for us to get this far.”
Moore approached Kodak, a company based in Rochester, New York, and sponsored the women’s college basketball All-American team. Kodak helped arrange dormitory accommodation and education at the University of Rochester.
“To be honest, we lived there in a dorm section that was still under construction,” Moore said. “We haven’t had a single complaint from the players. They were just so excited that we were going to the Olympics.
At the 1976 Games, the United States won the silver medal in a five-game round-robin format, 3-2 behind undefeated Soviet Union squad.
“It’s hard to put into words the depth of Billie Moore’s influence. I am very aware that I can walk the path that Billie Moore paved. A truly remarkable life, well lived.”
Cori Close, UCLA women’s basketball coach
The United States boycotted the 1980 Moscow Games and then won gold under Summitt at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. The US women have since won Olympic gold in basketball at every Olympic Games except 1992. The Americans have a streak of seven gold medals in a row.
“I always think that there are moments or achievements that can be like a trampoline to move things forward,” Moore said. “Title IX was one of those things. And I thought if we could win a medal at the Montreal Olympics, that could serve as a springboard for women’s basketball to grow.”
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 despite not playing for the NBA team. Moore also coached UCLA to the 1979 AIAW Final Four, where the Bruins lost in the semifinals to eventual champion Old Dominion, for whom Lieberman played.
“I could go to Billie in my best moments and in my worst moments,” Lieberman said. “She was amazing to me. She was more than a mentor. She was a friend. And I know what she did for me, she did for so many other people.”
https://www.espn.com/womens-college-basketball/story/_/id/35258187/former-ucla-olympic-women-basketball-coach-billie-moore-dies Former UCLA, Olympic women’s basketball coach Billie Moore dies