Coaches don’t get medals. If they did, Jennifer Gillom would have earned her eighth overall. She has six gold medals and a silver as a member of USA Basketball, including a gold as a member of the 1988 U.S. Olympic squad.
“I hope that we get a ring… Hopefully it will look good on the resume,” said Gillom, the Washington Mystics assistant coach and former Lynx head coach.
The only Black assistant women’s basketball coach last week wrapped up a two-game Olympic reunion tour for Gillom — her Mystics faced Indiana and Tamika Catchings and then Minnesota with Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen — all USA team members.
“It was very hard coming back and being very competitive against these girls that you coached for a month and became attached to,” she admitted afterwards. “I don’t think I’ve had that feeling since I won an Olympic gold medal as a player.”
“I thought it would be different going in as a coach, but the emotions were the same. You work with them and see how hard they work, and all that work paying off. That kept me emotional.”
“There were so many joyous moments,” recalled Gillom of her Olympic experience, which included a visit from President Barack Obama. “What a joy — he has such a presence about him,” she notes on the president.
It started in Turkey, where the U.S. players “really [jelled] as a team,” said Gillom. “Then going to London, visiting such a historic city, an interesting city — it reminds me of New York without the historical presence. To see Buckingham Palace, the Queen, the Tower of London, and the London Bridge with the big Olympic rings on it was just an awesome moment.”
Add a later meeting with First Lady Michelle Obama, the one-hour travel time to practices, and the games themselves: “It was all worth it,” believes
Left: Jennifer Gillom (Photo by Sophia Hantzes)
Gillom. “When we got to the gold medal game, to see that arena packed top to bottom for a women’s team, and to see how far it has come and to see how the world is enjoying and watching our game — it was a great moment.”
It was more than patriotism for the U.S. women’s team, added Gillom. “It was respect throughout the world, not just in your country or with the WNBA. I think it was a matter of gaining respect throughout the world and showing them that the women’s game is a great game to watch.
“It’s 12 players getting together trying to gain respect from everyone else, even in our own country. I’m hoping that after winning five gold medals in a row and making history that they did gain some sort of respect through that.”
Gillom’s Olympic experience was just one more historic event this summer for her mother. Jennifer’s sister, Peggie Gillom-Granderson, was announced in July as one of four former college players to be inducted next June into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2013. Jennifer is a 2009 inductee.
“There were so many joyous moments.”
“Peggie is a very humble type of person who doesn’t think highly of herself as much as other people do. I always looked up to her, and she has been my role model,” said Jennifer.
The two becomes the first sisters to be Hall members. “I am so glad that we can share this,” said Jennifer. “What a proud moment for our mom. You can see it in her eyes and through her smile — she tells us she’s proud of us.
“That makes us feel great knowing that we gave her some joy in life and something she can cheer for. My mom is probably on cloud nine right now.”
Gillom downplays her Olympic contributions in London: “I was just there to help and encourage the players and give them advice when they needed it. It helped that I played the game at that level on the world stage.”