THE GREAT GILLOM SISTERS, JENNIFER AND PEGGIE, are two of only five Black females who have been U.S. women’s basketball COACHES in the 12 Olympics for women’s basketball, AND THEY believe the work they put in led to the historical appointment of Dawn Staley — also a member of that elite sorority — as head coach of the 2020 team.

THE GREAT GILLOM SISTERS, JENNIFER AND PEGGIE, are two of only five Black females who have been U.S. women’s basketball COACHES in the 12 Olympics for women’s basketball, AND THEY believe the work they put in led to the historical appointment of Dawn Staley — also a member of that elite sorority — as head coach of the 2020 team.
The Gillom sisters are part of a “GREAT GROUP OF AMAZING WOMEN” that made big strides in the role of Black/AFRICAN AMERICAN female coaches with USA Basketball.
FILE - In this June 28, 2011, file photo, Los Angeles Sparks coach Jennifer Gillom gestures during the second half of a WNBA basketball game against the Connecticut Sun in Uncasville, Conn. Gillom says everything is a process. Dawn Staley becoming the first Black female head coach of the U.S. women's Olympic basketball team is no different. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)
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 Los Angeles Sparks coach Jennifer Gillom gestures during the second half of a WNBA basketball game against the Connecticut Sun in Uncasville, Conn. Gillom says everything is a process. Dawn Staley becoming the first Black female head coach of the U.S. women’s Olympic basketball team is no different. 
Peggie Gillom-Granderson and her sister Jennifer are two of only five Black females who have been U.S. women’s basketball assistants in the 12 Olympics for women’s basketball. She believes the work they put in led to the historical appointment of Dawn Staley — also a member of that elite sorority — as head coach of the 2020 team.“Just like pretty much everything else, it’s a process,” said Gillom, won Olympic gold as a player in 1988 in Seoul and was an assistant coach in 2012 in London. “And I think that it took us to pave the way for Dawn.”Her sister Gillom-Granderson was an assistant in 2000 at the Sydney Games. Being an Olympic head coach hasn’t been a goal for either, especially for Jennifer — not after years of playing basketball internationally. She’s happy coaching a high school team in Phoenix.
The other two Black women who have been national team assistants are Naismith Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer in 2004 and Marian Washington, an assistant at the 1996 Atlanta Games who coached 31 seasons at Kansas and was the first Black to coach on a U.S. women’s basketball staff and first Black female coach in international competition in 1982.
FILE - In this Dec. 31, 2018, file photo, Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer talks to players during the first half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Maryland in College Park, Md. The five Black women, including Stringer, who have been national team assistants helped pave the way for Dawn Staley's historic debut at the Tokyo Games. (AP Photo/Gail Burton, File)
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Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer talks to players during the first half of the team’s NCAA college basketball game against Maryland in College Park, Md. The five Black women, including Stringer, who have been national team assistants helped pave the way for Dawn Staley’s historic debut at the Tokyo Games. 
Neither were ever tabbed as Olympic head coaches.
“I thought she definitely would have been considered as a head coach for the Olympic team,” said Gillom-Granderson, who once coached in the Big 12 against Stringer. “Yes, those ladies have paid their dues, and they’ve been there. They’ve done that. … So yes, I think those ladies deserved it.”Added Gillom: “Maybe Vivian, it was too early then.”The timing is right for Staley.

A player on that 1996 team when Washington was an assistant, Staley said race wasn’t something that was openly discussed at that time. She sees USA Basketball as a place where “you just come together for a common goal.”

FILE - In this March 10, 2003, file photo, Kansas head coach Marian Washington talks to her players during a practice session for the Women's Big 12 basketball tournament in Dallas. The five Black women, including Washington, who have been national team assistants helped pave the way for Dawn Staley's historic debut at the Tokyo Games. (AP Photo/Tim Sharp, File)
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 Kansas head coach Marian Washington talks to her players during a practice session for the Women’s Big 12 basketball tournament in Dallas. The five Black women, including Washington, who have been national team assistants helped pave the way for Dawn Staley’s historic debut at the Tokyo Games. “We’re in a day and age where diversity matters, inclusion matters,” Staley said.

The U.S. coaching pipeline has featured 14 white women assistants — four who later were tabbed as Olympic head coaches. Geno Auriemma is one of five men to later become head coach.

The candidate pool is growing.

Adia Barnes, who coached Arizona to the national championship game in April and helped make history with Staley as the first two Black females ever to coach in a Final Four, was an assistant to Staley at the 2021 USA AmeriCup last month in Puerto Rico, a qualifier for the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup.

FILE - In this July 13, 2021, file photo, head coach Dawn Staley, center, coaches during practice for the United States women's basketball team in preparation for the Olympics in Las Vegas. Jennifer Gillom says everything is a process. Dawn Staley becoming the first Black female head coach of the U.S. women's Olympic basketball team is no different. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)
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Dawn Staley, center, coaches during practice for the United States women’s basketball team in preparation for the Olympics in Las Vegas. Jennifer Gillom says everything is a process. Dawn Staley becoming the first Black female head coach of the U.S. women’s Olympic basketball team is no different.  The Southeastern Conference, where Staley coaches, features seven Black female head coaches.

Gillom followed her playing career with stints as head coach of the Los Angeles Sparks and Minnesota Lynx in the WNBA. Now she is focused on Xavier College Preparatory High School and excited about a 6-foot-6 incoming freshman.

Her sister retired as associate head coach at Mississippi in 2009 and has worked with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at her alma mater ever since.

With Staley coaching the U.S. women, Gillom expects to see “a ton of Black women” coaching not just in the Olympics, but at the college level and in the WNBA.

“I’m almost positive you’re going to see a lot more Black women stepping up to the plate, feeling more motivated, feeling like they are finally being given the opportunity to display their ability,” Gillom said. “All you need is someone to be in that position to give you that confidence.”

Her sister agrees.

“The time is now is for Black women to have that opportunity,” Gillom-Granderson said.

No one understands or appreciates that more than Staley.

Peggie Gillom-Granderson

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Peggie Gillom-Granderson (born April 14, 1958) is a chaplain at the University of Mississippi since 2009. Before starting her religious position, Gillom played on the Ole Miss Rebels women’s basketball team between 1976 to 1980. During her time at Ole Miss, Gillom set career records for Mississippi with 2,486 points and 1,271 rebounds. After university, Gillom briefly played in the Women’s Professional Basketball League for a year with the Dallas Diamonds. As an assistant coach, Gillom worked with Ole Miss from 1981 to 1997 before continuing her assistant coaching tenure in the Women’s National Basketball Association. With the Houston Comets, Gillom and her team won the 1997 WNBA Championship.

As a head coach, Gillom had 63 wins and 86 losses with the Texas A&M Aggies women’s basketball team between 1998 to 2003. She later returned to Mississippi in 2003 to become the associate head coach for their women’s basketball team and remained in the position until 2008. Apart from university basketball, Gillom was an assistant coach of the American women’s basketball team that won bronze at the 1999 Pan American Games and gold at the 2000 Summer Olympics. Gillom was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 1998 and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.

Jennifer Gillom

Class of 2009

  • Member of the 1988 Gold Medal Olympic team
  • Tallied a career record of 103-23 at Ole Miss, while appearing in four NCAA tournaments, including two Sweet Sixteens and two Elite Eights
  • Earned the 1985 USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year award
  • 1986 SEC Female Athlete of the Year
  • Played seven seasons in the WNBA and was awarded the 2002 WNBA Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award
  • Averaged 13.4 ppg and 4.5 rpg during her WNBA career, member of the 1999 WNBA All-Star Team
  • The sports complex at Ole Miss is named “Gillom Sports Center” after Jennifer and her sister, Peggy
  • Inducted into Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 2008
  • Currently is the head coach of the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx

 

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