LOS ANGELES -- 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.
"Joe's familiarity with the Sparks organization puts us in the best possible position to compete going forward, and should make for a seamless transition," Toler said in a statement released by the team. "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."
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.
"I enjoyed working with Jennifer, and it's never easy to replace your friend and respected colleague," Bryant said in a statement. "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."
Toler says it was difficult to dismiss Gillom, who lost several players to injuries during her tenure, including Sparks star Candace Parker. Parker will miss 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.
"I want to thank everyone in the Sparks organization for the opportunity to serve as head coach, especially Penny Toler," Gillom said in a statement. "I enjoyed coaching the players and working alongside my staff, and am confident they will accomplish great things this season."
The Sparks are 0-5 on their current seven-game road trip and 4-6 overall.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.