He was an assistant with the Sparks for one month before taking over as head coach in August 2005 and through the 2006 season before he was fired in April 2007. He since has been coaching in Japan in the men's first division, most recently for the Raru Kamuy Hokkaido.
"I'm really happy to join [coach Jennifer Gillom]'s staff and be back with the Sparks' organization. The pieces are all in place to bring a trophy to Los Angeles this season," Bryant said in a news release. "Personally, I've always enjoyed coaching women and being a part of the WNBA."
Bryant is currently in Japan, but 710 ESPN Radio's John Ireland reported early Friday morning that Kobe Bryant had spoken to his parents and they were OK after an 8.9-magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami devastated part of the northeastern coast of Japan.
The Sparks announced Friday morning that former San Antonio Silver Stars coach Sandy Brondello also will join Gillom's staff this season, which begins June 3.
"I feel we've assembled a strong and diverse coaching staff, one that complements our talented roster and can guide the Sparks to a WNBA title in 2011," general manager Penny Toler said. "Jennifer, Joe and Sandy are all exceptionally skilled in both player development and game management, and are excited to begin working together."