Joe Bryant, an assistant coach this season, took over in 2005 for Henry Bibby.… (Francis Specker / Associated…)
The Sparks have fired Jennifer Gillom as coach and replaced her with assistant coach Joe Bryant, the team announced Sunday.
The coaching change was made after the Sparks fell to fifth place in the six-team Western Conference with a record of 4-6. They have lost five games in a row, their worst skid since 2007. Three of those losses have come after 2008 WNBA most valuable player Candace Parker suffered a knee injury in a June 26 game; she is expected to be out about six weeks. Parker played in just 10 games last season after needing surgery on a dislocated left shoulder.
"This was a very difficult decision, but I felt it was necessary to take the team in a different direction at this point in the season," Sparks General Manager Penny Toler said in a statement.
Bryant, a former NBA player, was first hired by the team as an assistant under Henry Bibby in 2005. Bibby was fired with five games remaining in the season, and Bryant took over as coach. He went 4-1 and the Sparks finished with a 17-17 record.
Bryant returned in 2006 and led the team to a 25-9 record and an appearance in the Western Conference finals. He was fired in April 2007, and succeeded by Michael Cooper, who had led the Sparks to championships in 2001 and 2002.
Bryant was hired to return to the Sparks as an assistant in March.
"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."
Gillom, who was hired in 2009, coached the team last year after Cooper left to coach women's basketball at USC. The Sparks went 13-21 last season and were swept by the Seattle Storm in the first round of the playoffs.
"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."