Billie Moore, Coach of Champions in Women’s Basketball, Dies at 79
Billie Moore, a Hall of Fame women’s college basketball coach who became the first to take two different schools to national championships, died on Thursday. She was 79.
Her death was announced in a statement on the U.C.L.A. Athletics website. The statement said that she died at her home but did not specify where she lived or cite a cause.
Moore was just 26 when she was named head coach of the California State-Fullerton women’s basketball squad in 1969, when the women’s game was only a blip on the college basketball scene. She enjoyed instant success at Cal-Fullerton, coaching it to the 1970 championship of the C.I.A.W. (Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics for Women) with a victory over West Chester State College of Pennsylvania in the final.
Moore was the head coach of the first United States women’s basketball team to compete in the Olympics, taking the squad to a silver medal at the 1976 Games in Montreal. Her team included the star players Nancy Lieberman, Ann Meyers and Pat Head, who was later the Hall of Fame coach Pat Summitt.
Moore became head coach of U.C.L.A.’s first women’s basketball team, which took the floor for the 1977-78 season, five years after Congress passed what became known as Title IX, which prohibits federally funded schools and other educational institutions from discriminating against students and staff members based on sex.
Her first Bruins team posted a 27-3 record and defeated Maryland, 90-74, on the Bruins’ home court, Pauley Pavilion, for the championship of the A.I.A.W. (Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women), the organization founded in 1971 as the successor to the C.I.A.W.
The Bruins’ triumph — sparked by Ann Meyers, a four-time all-American, who had 20 points, 10 rebounds and 8 steals — ended the dominance of women’s basketball by two small schools, Delta State of Mississippi and Immaculata of Pennsylvania, which had taken turns winning the six previous national championships, And it spawned the development of big-time budgets for the women’s game.
But the N.C.A.A. did not put women’s basketball under its auspices until 1982.
Meyers and Denise Curry, who also played for Moore, became Hall of Famers. In Moore’s 16 seasons at U.C.L.A., her teams went 296-191. She became the eighth coach in women’s basketball history to reach the 400-win mark, posting an overall record of 436-196.
She was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999.
Moore was also an assistant coach for the American women’s teams that competed in the 1973 World University Games in Moscow and the 1975 Pan American Games in Mexico City. She retired from coaching after U.C.L.A.’s 1992-93 season, when the Bruins had a 13-14 record.
Billie Jean Moore was born in Humansville, Mo., a small city in the west-central part of the state, on May 5, 1943. Her family moved to Kansas when she was young.
Her father had coached boys’ and girls’ basketball, but the small high school she attended in Topeka did not have athletic teams, so she played for a squad sponsored by a meat company. She was an assistant coach at Southern Illinois University before being hired as head coach at Cal-Fullerton.
Information about survivors was not immediately available.
In an interview with the website Hoops HD in 2020, Moore was asked whether she thought another coach would ever match her record of taking two different schools to national basketball titles.
“I think someone else will do it in the future,” she said. “With the advent of Title IX, I figured it was just a matter of time until the big-time conferences would start dominating women’s basketball. It took a while for Title IX to have an impact. Before that it was small schools like Immaculata/Delta State, but now it is only power-conference teams.”
After retiring from coaching, Moore was a consultant or instructor for a variety of college basketball teams and camps.
“I spent about 27 years around the Tennessee program and went to all of their N.C.A.A. tourney appearances,” she said. “Only recently have I really been a spectator.”
Maia Coleman contributed reporting.