Joe Bryant is beginning his second stint as the Los Angeles Sparks head coach. Photo by Francis Specker/Associated Press
The Los Angeles Sparks have dismissed Jennifer Gillom as coach and replaced her with Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, the father of Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant, who previously coached the WNBA team.
General manager Penny Toler announced the move Sunday night, saying it was necessary to take the team in a different direction.
Bryant previously coached the Sparks from August 2005 through the 2006 season, guiding them to two playoff appearances. He was hired in March as an assistant to Gillom. Sandy Brondello remains as an assistant.
Toler says it was difficult to dismiss Gillom, who lost several players to injuries during her tenure, including Sparks star Candace Parker. She is currently out six weeks with a knee injury.
Last season, Parker was limited to 10 games because of a shoulder injury, and the team lost guard Betty Lennox to knee surgery. The Sparks won just three of their first 10 games, but made the playoffs in Gillom’s first season, when she had just nine healthy players.
The Sparks are 0-5 on their current seven-game road trip and 4-6 overall.
The Sparks won championships in 2001 and ’02 and made it to the finals in ’03, but have failed to advance past the first round the past two seasons. Los Angeles was plagued by injuries last season, when it finished 17-17.
Bryant played eight years in the NBA with the Philadelphia 76ers, San Diego Clippers and Houston Rockets before moving to Italy, where he played in the 1980s. He began his coaching career in 2003 and was most recently the head coach of two ABA teams — the Las Vegas Rattlers and Boston Frenzy.
Bryant most recently was head coach of Raru Kamuy Hokkaido, a Japanese first division men’s team. He also taught at a private basketball academy in Japan.
Bryant started with the Sparks as an assistant and was promoted to head coach late in the 2005 season, guiding the team to a playoff appearance. In 2006, he led the team to a 25-9 record and the Western Conference finals.
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