Bruno Says Thank You in His Own Special Way
Nov. 14, 2012
CHICAGO - As Doug Bruno stood at the podium Tuesday night in McGrath-Phillips Arena, his high school basketball coach sat in the audience nodding his head.
Dick Flaiz knows that in today's high-tech, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram world of total immediacy where people text instead of talk, Bruno is a dinosaur from a bygone era.
Certainly the DePaul women's basketball coach has learned to navigate his way through this modern technology, but he prefers to trust in his old-school ways.
And that's what came across at the celebration in which Bruno wanted to thank everyone for helping him play an integral role as part of the coaching staff on the gold medal USA Women's Basketball Team at last summer's London Olympics.
What we are missing in society today are those old-school values of trust, belief, family. This is what Bruno imparts to each player who comes through his Blue Demon program, to each youngster who comes through his basketball camp. This is what sets Bruno apart from so many other coaches.
If being old-fashioned means adhering to time-honored principles and morals and showing compassion to others, then stick that label on him. That conviction built upon a rock-solid foundation comes across to all the young people that come in contact with him.
"It's momentous to see old-school values in this day and age," Flaiz said. "You're coming to a wonderful place as DePaul has gotten back to family. You couldn't ask for a better athletic director (Jean Lenti Ponsetto) who is bringing back the values of the 1950s and 60s when (legendary coach) Ray Meyer was here.
"Why is Doug so successful with his old-school way of thinking? It's his personality. If you've been to his basketball camp, you'll understand why. I've sent girls there. They get his enthusiasm, energy and see how he gives of his time.
"The kids come back and tell me he is genuine. He never took no for an answer and he gets those campers to believe in that. It's catchy. Just like in everything else, he gives everything he's got to his camp."
Flaiz chuckles at the memories of the two times in his life that he tried to discourage Bruno.
"To me, Doug Bruno has always been a person who never took `no' for an answer," Flaiz said. "He was cut from Quigley South's sophomore team by coach Al Williams.
"Doug came in to see me and asked why he'd been cut. I said: `Because you're too short, you can't jump and you can't shoot.' He let that sink in for a moment and replied: `Okay, then I want to be your manager.'
"He was the extra player we'd use in drills and scrimmages. He would stay late after practice to work on his shooting. He put a light on his garage and would shoot in the driveway until midnight.
"A year later as a junior, he was the sixth man on our varsity team and played two years for us as a 6-foot, 2-inch rebounding specialist."
Once the best hockey player at Quigley South decided to focus purely on basketball, there was no stopping him.
"After his senior season, he came to see me and said he wanted to play college basketball," Flaiz said. "I thought to myself, `are you kidding?' It was the second time I had to say no. Again, he wouldn't take no for an answer. He worked at the Ray Meyer basketball camp that summer and somehow got coach Meyer to take him at DePaul.
"Every time you say no to Doug and that he can't do it, he finds a way to prove you wrong. He's been doing that all his life."
He subtly passed along that never-take-no attitude to former player Stella Woodley (1987-91) who flew in from Denver on Tuesday to see her old coach.
"I tried to get out of practice one time my freshman year," Woodley said with a sheepish grin. "I played with a condition called lupus, a long-term autoimmune disorder, and on this particular day, I didn't feel like practicing.
"I went to see coach and showed him these big puppy-dog eyes. I told him I was having a lupus day. It had always worked with all my other coaches.
"Doug said he was sorry and that he was very concerned. He said, `let's see what we can do.' He started me out slowly, telling me to take it easy and don't push too hard. He said `let me know how I can help you.'
"All I heard was encouraging words as I started working out. Next thing you knew, I was out there running up and down the court harder than ever."
Woodley pauses and shakes her head during this stroll down memory lane.
"From that day forward, I never babied my disorder," Woodley said. "Now, I'm dealing with CIDP, a rare disorder of the peripheral nerves.
"To this day, I haven't given in. I'm always saying `man-up' like Doug told us."
Sitting next to her and reminiscing up a storm was Beth Hasenmiller Sauser (1988-92) who scored a school-record 42 points in a win over Valparaiso in 1991 that clinched DePaul's first automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.
With Sauser, Bruno used a different motivational tact.
"My sophomore year I gave him a list of five goals I wanted to accomplish," Sauser said. "He laughed at me and said I was too small. When I reached those goals, he apologized to me."
All kinds of Bruno stories circulated among the audience of 220 that included Vincentians Father Thomas Croak, Father Chas Shelby, Father Patrick Murphy and Brother Mark Elder. Heather Nichols Carmody and Ed Fellin who have established endowed scholarships were on hand.
There were a number of university faculty and staff including Bob Kozoman and John McEnroe along with former DePaul trainer Tom Monforti.
Bruno's former teammates at DePaul---Jim Marino, John Lawler and Jim Martin---retold their favorite tales. Quigley South teammates Kevin Moore and Paul Vickery along with longtime friend Dr. Jack Raba and guys who grew up with him in Rogers Park joined in the celebration.
Martha Moran, Patti and Mary Hie were there and so were past and present co-chairmen of the Athletics Advisory Council Jack Cummins and Ron Griggs.
"It was funny seeing coach Bruno at the Olympics sitting down and being quiet with a clipboard," said ex-Blue Demon star Keisha Hampton. "I'm used to him standing up and shouting at every game and for every second at practice.
"I'm so glad he has this chance to thank his family and friends."
That's exactly what Bruno did.
"I've been asked if winning an Olympic gold medal is the pinnacle of my career," Bruno said. "Actually, the pinnacle is my opportunity to coach at DePaul every single day.
"And that's what tonight is all about---a chance for me to say thanks to all of you for that opportunity.
"Coach Ray Meyer is the reason I am here tonight, and I can't thank him enough for all he has done for me."
Bruno thanked his other mentors Gene Sullivan and Frank McGrath and the close friends and former teammates from Quigley South, DePaul, Loyola, Rogers Park and St. Ignatius.
"I want to thank all of you for putting me in the position to be in London."