Kobe Bryant's father appointed as Sparks head coach

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Joe "Jellybean" Bryant, father of National Basketball Association standout Kobe Bryant, has been appointed head coach of the Los Angeles Sparks, the Women's National Basketball Association team said on Monday.

Bryant senior, who previously served as Sparks head coach from August 2005 until the end of the 2006 season, will replace Jennifer Gillom in the role.

"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," Sparks General Manager Penny Toler said in a statement.

Bryant, who led the Sparks to the Western Conference Finals in 2006, competed in the NBA for eight years before spending almost a decade as a player in Italy.

Before returning to Los Angeles earlier this year, he was head coach of Raru Kamuy Hokkaido, a Japanese first division men's team, and also taught at a private basketball academy in Japan.

In March, he was hired as an assistant coach with the Sparks, one of 12 teams in the U.S. professional basketball league that started play in 1997.

"I enjoyed working with Jennifer, and it's never easy to replace your friend and respected colleague," Bryant said.

(Writing by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Frank Pingue)

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