Danelle Bishop, head coach for Cal Poly Pomona’s women’s basketball team, was inducted into the hall of fame at her alma mater, East Union High School on October 7, 2022.
Bishop started her athletic journey at an older age relative to when athletes usually discover their love for their sport. She started playing basketball when she was 10 or 11 years old.
“I started playing in fifth grade and in the summer of my fifth grade year,” said Bishop. “I went to a skills camp, and I got most improved player that week. I went again maybe two or three years later, might have been three years, and I got most improved player. Then I ended up getting most valuable player within just a short bit of time. I think it just goes to show how much I loved the sport.”
Her father, Mark Liles, was a boy’s high school basketball coach, and Bishop would accompany him to his games as a young girl. Her parents have often told her stories of how she would tap her dad’s shoulder from behind during his games and bug him with questions. She believes that’s where her love for the game began.
“My dad would show me stuff, but we didn’t have trainers like they have trainers now for all these sports,” said Bishop. “It was really just me putting in a lot of work and dedication, just like on my own and just trying to get better. So yeah, I think the rest is history. I just fell in love with it, and I ended up playing a couple different levels in college because I transferred twice. And I think everything happens for a reason, so it was a great experience overall.”
Bishop was an all-around athlete growing up, playing softball, cross country, track and field, golf, volleyball and of course, basketball.
“Volleyball was probably one of my other better sports. The other ones I did to get in shape for basketball,” said Bishop. “I did as much as I could, and luckily, I had a lot of coaches that knew basketball was my main sport so they were probably a little lenient with me and made sure I could get to all my basketball stuff.”
Bishop recounts numerous memorable moments, but the ones she shared with her father remain highest on the list.
“In high school, one of my most memorable moments was really just having my dad coach me,” said Bishop. “I don’t think a lot of players get to have that, but I was really able to understand the game on a different level than probably what most players would. I fell in love with film watching and breaking things down, and stuff like that, which, in turn, eventually led me into coaching.”
Bishop’s transition from high school into university was tough. She attended University of Florida, and that switch from a small town to a big college area far from home was difficult for Bishop. After getting injured, Bishop transferred to a junior college.
“I went Division I, and I transferred back to Delta Junior College in Stockton, California. I loved basketball so much, I went away and played at the 4-year level,” said Bishop. “I didn’t quite have a good experience and got injured, and I almost gave up playing. I fell back in love with the game and a lot of that was due to my coach, her name was Gina Johnson, and the players as well. So, it was a pretty memorable year for me.”
Bishop arrived at Cal Poly Pomona after coaching at Azusa Pacific University for four years and California Baptist University for three years. She began coaching at CPP as an interim coach. She fondly remembers the team she coached her first year for the Broncos.
“We won the conference tournament, got to host the NCAA regional tournament, and then we won that,” said Bishop. “It was crazy, and I remember just cutting down the nets in that Sweet Sixteen game at Cal Poly. I look over at my husband, who’s not very emotional, and he’s got these tears of joy coming down. It was a story of redemption for me. It was just a fun team that really took a chance on me, so I have a lot of memories of that particular team at Cal Poly.”
Growing up, Bishop always had the support of family and friends and she holds it very dear, especially now as a mother. .
“You’ll hear people say, ‘It takes a village,’ and I think sometimes people don’t understand what that means, but it really does,” said Bishop. “Now that I’m a mom of two, I have a 10-year-old and a 13-year-old that keep me ridiculously busy. My husband and I both work full time, and so I know what that meaning is now because it does take a village. It can’t just be him and I, so I feel like I have a lot of people who were pretty vital in my growth, not only as a basketball player but just as a person.”
Ally Bates, a guard on the women’s basketball team, shared her thoughts about her head coach.
“Having Coach B as a coach is like having someone who truly cares about her players,” said Bates. “She preaches family first, and we try to bring that into the environment of our team. She expects excellence from her players, and she builds her program around excellence and family to achieve a winning culture.”
With her recent induction, Bishop reflected on the impact she had on other young basketball players at her alma mater.
“I feel like I did a lot of good things, and I would like to think that I kind of paved the way for some of the young women that are coming through my high school now, and one of them is actually on my team right now,” said Bishop. “Donja Payne is on my team, and she went to my high school. I would like to think that I paved the way for them and gave them hope to beat any record that I have set a long time ago, but it was humbling and exciting and all those things wrapped up in one.”
Bates mentioned pride for her head coach despite Bishop’s humility for the event.
“Coach B. was pretty modest about it actually,” said Bates. “We were all pretty proud of her. To have her be recognized and acknowledged after she spent time and effort into that space is good to see. We were all pretty excited to see that she was being recognized.”
Payne, a forward/center on the women’s basketball team and fellow East Union High School alum, said she was proud to be coached by someone she looks up to.
“I was super excited for her to get noticed from a school that she hasn’t attended in a while and that she graduated from,” said Payne. “It was exciting for me as well to know that I am being coached by someone who is being looked up to at my school. It definitely makes me want to follow in her footsteps, she’s being a really good example.”
Bishop hopes that her story inspires the next generation of athletes to continue working hard. It’s something her parents taught her, and she hopes her story will teach next generation.
“People often get lost in social media,” said Bishop. “We get caught up in comparing people and doing all this stuff, and if anything, I didn’t come from much. We didn’t have money. We didn’t have a lot, I just worked. I didn’t have trainers. I didn’t have all the money to go play on the top team and fly to all these places. We didn’t have all these travel ball teams back when I played. When you work hard, good things happen. Work hard and not expect anything back in return, and just do good because that’s what we should do as people. So that is what I hope comes through this. There’s nothing special about me. I just grind, and I care about people and I work hard.”
Bishop is beginning her 13th year CPP and her 12th year coaching, since the pandemic prevented the team from playing for a year.
“It’s been a fun ride, that’s for sure, and I’m grateful to Brian Swanson and the University for the opportunity they gave me and that I’ve been enjoying it,” said Bishop. “It’s a great place with a great athletic department, and I’m really looking forward to this season.”