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That Championship Season

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Spring 1998
That Championship Season
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But like the Denver Broncos’ John Elway, Meyers seemingly couldn’t win the big one. She failed to move the Bruins past the AIAW regional tournament, where they consistently fell to Cal State Fullerton. Nor could she lead the team to a title at the second-chance National Invitational Tournament, where the Flying Queens of Wayland Baptist, Texas, outscored them each year. Her junior season, Fullerton beat her again in the AIAW West Regional, 91-87. The ’78 tournament, played on Meyers’ home court, was her last chance to lead her team to the Promised Land.

It was a story too good for network TV to pass up. NBC decided to televise a portion of the final game as part of its weekend magazine show, Sports World. The championship at Pauley was the first AIAW event of any kind to receive intense media coverage: Women’s basketball took a high-top stride toward national approval that night, with a Big Crowd and Big Media. There was even a legendary Big Man in the audience, Wilt Chamberlain, who sprawled conspicuously across two rows of bleachers. Meyers had raised the hoop for the sport, but there was still a crucial game to be played out on the hardwood that night.

The final buzzer of the 1976-’77 West Regional against Fullerton had signaled the end of Ellen Mosher’s abbreviated career as coach. (Earlier in the season, the Bruins had beaten the Titans 74-48.) Determined to win the elusive national championship, Holland, in a stroke of “if- you-can’t-beat-’em-hire-’em” genius, recruited her longtime nemesis, Billie Moore of Fullerton.

“I knew Billie was right for us,” says Holland. “She had the maturity we needed.”

Moore had impressive credentials: a 146-17 record at Fullerton topped by the 1970 national title, plus a silver medal as coach of the first U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team in 1976. But hiring Moore was far from a slam dunk. She had a reputation for being tough on players and it was well-known that Meyers was not a fan. Moore had coached the UCLA star at the Montreal Olympics and Meyers’ sister, Patty, had played on Moore’s Fullerton championship team. Patty feuded openly with the coach and left with hard feelings. “I had a tough time adjusting to Billie,” admits Meyers.

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