LA Sparks Promote Joe "Jellybean" Bryant to Head Coach

July 10, 2011

The Los Angeles Sparks announced a coaching change on Sunday, firing Jennifer Gillom and replacing her with Joe “Jellybean” Bryant.  Bryant is a former NBA veteran and the father of current Lakers superstar, Kobe Bryant.

“This was a very difficult decision, but I felt it was necessary to take the team in a different direction at this point in the season,” Sparks Vice President and General Manager Penny Toler said.

“We respect Jennifer’s commitment to the Sparks and understand she has faced adversity with player injuries during her tenure.  That being said, with a short season and playing in the competitive Western Conference, winning games early in the year is critical and the Sparks’ goal remains to contend for a WNBA Championship.”

The Sparks have struggled since star Candace Parker suffered a knee injury, losing five consecutive games and falling to fifth place in the West.  The team has been particularly inept on the road, as they are winless in all six games.

“I want to thank everyone in the Sparks organization for the opportunity to serve as head coach, especially Penny Toler,” Gillom said.  “I enjoyed coaching the players and working alongside my staff, and am confident they will accomplish great things this season.”

Bryant previously served as Los Angeles’ head coach from August 2005 through the 2006 season, and also possesses head coaching experience overseas with Japan's Raru Kamuy Hokkaido and Tokyo Apache, and Italy’s Sebastiani Rieti.

In his prior stint as the Sparks head coach, Bryant led the team to a WNBA Playoff appearance. The following year, Los Angeles finished atop the Western Conference at 25-9 – the second-best record in the league – and reached the Conference Finals.  He was eventually replaced in 2007 by former Laker great Michael Cooper.

“I enjoyed working with Jennifer, and it’s never easy to replace your friend and respected colleague,” Bryant said.  “What’s most important is the personnel on the floor hasn’t changed; we have the right mix of players to be a successful WNBA ballclub.”

Jellybean's first test will come this Tuesday, when the Sparks face the San Antonio Silver Stars.

By Staff of

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