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Bibby Is New Spark Coach

Times Staff Writer

The Sparks decided to put their future in the hands of a Southland veteran Wednesday when the team announced the hiring of former USC coach Henry Bibby.

Terms were not announced, but it is believed to be a two-year deal.

“After an extensive search we are glad to announce that we have selected Henry Bibby as the new Sparks head coach,” General Manager Penny Toler said.

“He had his ups and downs at USC. But we feel we have a championship team, and we wanted somebody we felt that has been there and done that. He’s won just about everything but a WNBA title, and we feel he’s the right person to do that.”

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Spark President Johnny Buss said the organization was looking for a disciplinarian, of which Bibby has a long-standing reputation.

“I like his commitment to coaching and to basketball,” Buss said.

“I’m not concerned with his not having coached women. He made me feel comfortable. He’s a no-nonsense coach and we wanted that kind of commitment.”

Bibby did not return phone calls. He did, however, say in a prepared statement, “I’m excited to be the coach and I’m happy to be in a position where I am wanted and where basketball comes first.

“I’m just happy to be with an organization like the Sparks. I don’t think there is a better organization, and I’m excited about that.”

He becomes the fifth head coach of the franchise, excluding Karleen Thompson and Ryan Weisenberg, interim coaches who succeeded Michael Cooper last July. Cooper resigned to take an assistant coaching position with the NBA’s Denver Nuggets.

Cooper was the most successful coach in Spark history, winning WNBA championships in 2001 and 2002.

The Sparks also won four Western Conference regular-season titles and three Western Conference playoff championships during Cooper’s run from 2000 to 2004.

When Cooper left, the Sparks were in the hands of Thompson and Weisenberg.

Los Angeles finished the 2004 regular season with the league’s best record (25-9) but lost to Sacramento in the first round of the playoffs.

During the off-season, Thompson took an assistant coaching job with the Houston Comets and Weisenberg went back to the Lakers, where he had worked in video and scouting.

Bibby first came to Los Angeles in 1968. He played guard and was part of three national championship teams under John Wooden at UCLA.

Drafted by the New York Knicks in 1972, Bibby played nine seasons in the NBA.

Along with New York, Bibby played with the New Orleans Jazz, Philadelphia 76ers and San Diego Clippers. He won an NBA title with the Knicks in 1973.

When his professional playing days ended, Bibby turned to coaching, spending time in the Continental Basketball Assn. and U.S. Basketball League. He won CBA titles in 1982 and 1989.

Bibby was in his ninth season at USC when he was fired by Athletic Director Mike Garrett in December, four games into the 2004-05 season. He had replaced Charlie Parker on an interim basis in 1995-96 before being hired on a permanent basis.

Bibby’s best season with the Trojans was in 2000-01, when USC was 24-10 and advanced to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament. The Trojans went to the NCAA tournament three times under Bibby.

He long has been known as a disciplinarian who often holds players out of games for even minor infractions.

At the time of his dismissal from USC, Bibby told The Times, “My discipline, if that’s what got me fired, then it will get me fired at my next job, because this is who I am and how I coach.

“I’m big on discipline. Coach Wooden was big on discipline.”

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Spark Coaches

The records of Spark coaches:

*--* Linda Sharp 1997 4-7 Local college coaching legend, let go against backdrop of high expectations. Julie Rousseau 1997-98 17-20 Promoted assistant finished strong in first year, fired after slow start in second year. Orlando Woolridge 1998-99 25-17 Former Laker who finally got Sparks to the playoffs in his lone full season. Michael Cooper 2000-04 119-31 Former Laker who took Sparks to the promised land: two WNBA championships and four division titles. Karleen Thompson and Ryan Weisberg 2004 11-3 Interim co-coaches who led team to a division title run but stumbled in the playoffs.

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