With a World Cup to her credit, the 48-year-old coach of the U.S. women’s team just signed a new multiyear contract. Terms were not disclosed, but it’s believed that the contract will keep her in the job at least through the 2019 World Cup in France, and possibly through the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Here are five oddities, curiosities or (possibly) interesting facts about the first U.S. coach to win a World Cup since 1999:
In the World Cup, the young Americans won their group but lost on penalty kicks to Nigeria in the quarterfinals.
The captain of that team and its undisputed star was Sydney Leroux, who turned 20 two months before the World Cup got under way.
Leroux was the leading scorer of the CONCACAF tournament, with six goals; and the leading U.S. scorer in the World Cup, with five goals in just four games.
She had an impressive run coaching the women’s team at UCLA from 1999 to 2010. Ellis got the Bruins to the Final Four eight times, including seven in a row from 2003 to 2009. Her teams won six straight conference titles, from 2003 to 2008. Overall, she compiled a record of 229-45-14 — a winning average of just under .800.
“During her 12 seasons in Westwood, Ellis has transformed the Bruins into one of the premier programs in the nation,” says a biography of the coach that is still on the UCLA Athletics website. (She was “Jillian” Ellis back then. Because of her, the bio says, “UCLA is annually in the hunt for the national title.”
Ellis was characterized as a “master recruiter.” Among the future stars she brought to UCLA were Sydney Leroux and Lauren Cheney (who now goes by Lauren Holiday, her married name). Cheney was there from 2006 to 2009, Leroux from 2008-2011. So they played together, terrorizing opposing defenses, in 2008 and 2009.
Before UCLA, Ellis coached the women’s team at the University of Illinois from 1997 to 1999. In 1998, the Fighting Illini made it to the Big Ten tournament for the first time and finished the season at 12-8.
She played at the College of William & Mary from 1984 to 1987. A forward, she was a Third-Team All-American in her senior year.
Her mother Margaret was horrified when, in 1994, Ellis accepted her first full-time coaching position, as an assistant at the University of Maryland under April Heinrichs (later the U.S. coach). To take the job, which paid $6,000 a year, Ellis gave up a much more lucrative one as a technical writer for a telecom company.
“”My mom said, ‘You have got to be absolutely kidding me,’ ” Ellis recalled.