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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 primary to take two different schools to national championships, died on Thursday at her home in Fullerton, Calif. She was 79.

Her death was announced in an announcement on the U.C.L.A. Athletics website. A spokesman for U.C.L.A. Athletics said she had multiple myeloma.

Moore was just 26 when she was named head coach of the California State-Fullerton women’s basketball squad in 1969, when the ladies’s game was only a blip on the faculty basketball scene. She enjoyed quick 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 ultimate.

Moore was the pinnacle coach of the primary United States women’s basketball team to compete within the Olympics, taking the squad to a silver medal on 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 ground for the 1977-78 season, five years after Congress passed what became often called 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 because 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 eight steals — ended the dominance of girls’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 event of big-time budgets for the ladies’s game.

However the N.C.A.A. didn’t 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 succeed in 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 within 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 within the west-central a 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, however the small highschool she attended in Topeka didn’t 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.

Details about survivors was not immediately available.

In an interview with the web site Hoops HD in 2020, Moore was asked whether she thought one other coach would ever match her record of taking two different schools to national basketball titles.

I believe another person will do it in the long run,” she said. “With the arrival of Title IX, I figured it was only a matter of time until the big-time conferences would start dominating women’s basketball. It took some time for Title IX to have an effect. Before that it was small schools like Immaculata/Delta State, but now it is just power-conference teams.”

After retiring from coaching, Moore was a consultant or instructor for a wide range of college basketball teams and camps.

I spent about 27 years across the Tennessee program and went to all of their N.C.A.A. tourney appearances,” she said. “Only recently have I actually been a spectator.”

Maia Coleman contributed reporting.

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