Billie Moore, the coach of the first U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team who led Cal State Fullerton and UCLA to national titles, died Wednesday at her California home. She was 79.
Moore, who was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the inaugural Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame class in 1999, died of cancer in Fullerton, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Moore was the first coach in women’s basketball history to lead teams from two different schools to national titles. She led Cal State Fullerton to the Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics for Women championship in 1970 and took UCLA to the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women crown in 1978, ESPN reported.
The late Pat Summitt, who played for Moore on the 1976 Olympic team before coaching Tennessee to eight national championships, said that Moore was the most influential figure in her career, the Times reported.
“Billie is our John Wooden,” Anne Meyers Drysdale, a senior on the Bruins team that won the national championship and a fellow Hall of Famer, told the newspaper. “She truly has been a gift to us in the women’s game.”
Moore led the U.S. women to the silver medal at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, a signature moment for women’s basketball in its debut appearance.
“She was a coach who was very highly organized, and she always understood the makeup of her team,” 1976 Olympian and Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman said. “Like all great coaches, she just had a feel for the game. She helped take my basketball IQ and understanding to another level.”
Born on May 5, 1943, in Westmoreland, Kansas, Moore began her coaching career as an assistant at Southern Illinois, the Times reported. She then went 140-15 at Cal State Fullerton and won eight conference titles before taking the UCLA job.
Moore had a 296-181 record in 16 seasons with the Bruins, including a 27-3 mark in 1978, according to ESPN. Moore finished her coaching career with a 436-196 record.
The U.S. women had been competing internationally for many years, including the world championships, since the 1950s, ESPN reported. However, it took years of lobbying for the Summer Olympics to include women’s basketball. Moore was an assistant on the 1975 Pan Am Games squad before becoming the U.S. coach for the 1976 Olympics, according to the sports news network.
“She set high standards for herself and those who played and worked with her and never took shortcuts or allowed those around her to settle for anything less than their best,” Pam Walker, who spent four seasons on Moore’s UCLA staff and is now the Bruins’ director of operations, told the Times. “She was uncompromising in her integrity — that’s how she coached and also how she lived.”