Photo courtesy of Darlene J. Allen
Hall of Fame coach and pioneer of the game, Billie Moore, Wednesday, December 14, 2022, after a long and courageous battle with cancer. Moore is perhaps best known for her contributions to USA Basketball and its predecessor ABAUSA where she served as the first USA Olympic Women’s Basketball Coach in 1976. That team earned a silver medal in Montreal.
Moore was born May 5, 1943, in Humansville, Mo., then grew up in rural Westmoreland, Kan. Her father was a basketball coach there and when Executive Producer Brenda VanLengen interviewed her in September, Moore recalled following him around with a clipboard and writing up plays. In 1959, he took her to watch an AAU tournament and she was inspired by watching the most elite players in the game.
She began her coaching career at Southern Illinois as a graduate assistant on Charlotte West’s staff while completing her master’s. In 1970, when she was just 26 years old, Moore took a head coaching position at Cal State Fullerton and led the Titans to a CIAW championship in her first year at the helm. Moore compiled a 140-15 record in eight years at Cal State Fullerton.
While at Cal State Fullerton, Moore served as an assistant coach for the USA women’s national team for the 1973 World University Games and the 1975 Pan American Games. When women’s basketball was added to the 1976 Summer Olympics, Moore was tapped as head coach. Moore’s Olympic squad, which fell to the Soviet Union in the championship game, featured several future Hall of Famers including Lusia Harris, Nancy Lieberman, Ann Meyers, Trish Roberts and Pat (Head) Summit.
Following the Olympics, she coached for 16 seasons at UCLA. She finished her career at UCLA with a 296-191 record and won the 1978 AIAW National Championship. She retired from coaching in 1993 and served as a mentor and confidante to Pat Summitt until her passing in 2016. Moore was enshrined in both the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999.
Statement from Executive Producer Brenda VanLengen:
Our hearts are heavy today at the news of the passing of one of the most important people in basketball history, Billie Moore. Her contributions to the growth of women’s basketball are often unheralded and we are so honored to illuminate them through the “If Not For Them” docuseries project. She has been referred to as the “Mother of Modern Women’s Basketball,” a strategist, a visionary, a disciplinarian and a friend to so many. She won national championships with two different teams before the NCAA recognized women’s sports and was our first Olympic women’s basketball coach. Billie was struggling with her health over the past year, but selflessly endured the discomfort and pain of sitting through an interview with us just three months before her passing. The stories and wisdom she shared with me and this project will be cherished forever and I am honored to unveil them in this docuseries. If Not For Them … If Not For Her, we definitely would not be where we are in women’s basketball and women’s sports today.