On Day One in Southern California, we collected stories about the Japanese League in Sacramento, the high school programs in the urban core of LA plus the early successful college programs at Cal Poly Pomona, UCLA and Long Beach State.
Day Two in SoCal turned our attention to Cal State Fullerton, USC, UCLA and the West Coast’s impact on the 1976 Olympics.
Billie Moore grew up in rural Kansas where she followed her basketball coach father with a clipboard, drawing up the plays she saw his teams run. In 1959, he took Billie to watch an AAU tournament where she was inspired by the basketball playing ability of the most elite women in the sport. (several of whom we have interviewed for this project.) Moore was invited into college coaching by future AIAW Leader Charlotte West at Southern Illinois and would go on to coach two national championships (Cal-State Fullerton 1970 and UCLA 1978) and serve as the first US Olympic Coach at the 1976 Olympics. After a long, successful career at UCLA, she went on to mentor and advise the legendary Pat Summitt, who Billie had known since coaching her in the 1973 World University Games.
One of Moore’s players at Cal-State Fullerton, Linda Sharp, would go on to leave her mark on women’s basketball in a big way. After, three years of coaching high school basketball, Sharp was approached by Associate Athletic Director Barbara Hedges to be the head coach at USC. Sharp proved to be a remarkable recruiter and a savvy Head Coach and within five years, USC appeared in its first AIAW Final Four. Two years later, they won back-to-back NCAA National Championships in 1983 and 84.
Hedges also joined us to discuss building the USC women’s sports programs in the 1970s. An astute fundraiser, Hedges raised money to fund scholarships and provide resources for the women’s programs as an example for many around the country. Frustrated that West Coast universities didn’t have a voice in the AIAW, Hedges was part of the leadership effort to move women’s sports to the NCAA. About 10 years later, Hedges was the first woman hired as an Athletic Director of a Power 5 school when she was named University of Washington AD in 1991.
The USC National Champions of 1983 and 84 were headlined by some of the biggest names in women’s basketball in the early 1980s as women’s sports transitioned from the AIAW to NCAA – Pam and Paula McGee, Cynthia Cooper and Cheryl Miller. But one lesser-known teammate who may have been the most valuable, Juliette Robinson joined us to talk about USC women’s basketball and the impact and influence of Barbara Hedges and Linda Sharp. J.R., as she was known, helped ensure team chemistry, and focus, on a team of strong personalities. Robinson leveraged those experiences on and off the court at USC and built a successful career as an attorney in LA.