WBL Including Bruno Inducted into Hall of Fame
June 29, 2018
CHICAGO - Colorful tales and folklore nearly four decades old abounded on the second weekend in June when the WBL (Women's Basketball League) which included Chicago Hustle coach Doug Bruno was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn.
It was so appropriate that the WBL was the recipient of the prestigious Trailblazer Award as the league was founded in 1979 by true basketball pioneers who were not marquee names and left regular jobs to follow their passion.
Many played on AAU teams, traveling exhibition teams, club teams and in any forum that allowed them to showcase their skills. After Title IX in 1972, girls were afforded athletic scholarships and opportunities to play in college. They took full advantage of the new legislation.
"The great thing about the league is that it was founded by many talented players who were not big names," said Bruno, the Hustle's coach for the first two seasons of the WBL's three-year run. "They came from pre-Title IX college programs like Wayland Baptist, Stroudsburg State, Mississippi State, Queens College and Cheney State. Later on, the great Hall of Fame legends like Ann Meyers-Drysdale, Nancy Lieberman and Carol Blazejowski joined the WBL.
"The league was started and sustained by people like Liz Galloway-McQuitter, Charlene (McWhorter) Jackson, Adrian Mitchell, Janie Fincher, Sue Digitale, Debra Waddy-Rossow, Rita Easterling, Marie Kocurek, Althea Gwyn, `Machine Gun Molly' Bolin, Breena Caldwell, Belinda Candler and so many more.
"It was people like Karen Logan, star of the All-American Redheads, a barnstorming team with real athletic talent along with antics like the Harlem Globetrotters. Logan is credited with developing the smaller basketball first introduced by the WBL and once beat NBA legend Jerry West in a game of H-O-R-S-E on a nationally televised segment of CBS-TV's "Battle of the Sexes" show."
The historic WBL opener tipped off Dec. 9, 1978 before a Milwaukee Arena crowd of 7,824 with the Hustle winning 92-87 behind Debra Waddy-Rossow's 30 points and 12 rebounds. Rita Easterling finished with 14 points, 21 assists and nine rebounds.
That inaugural women's pro game attracted national TV crews and wire services and garnered four minutes of coverage on the `CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite.'
Lacking strength in the post, the Hustle excelled at the same uptempo, fast-paced style that Bruno coaches at DePaul. The Hustle led the WBL in 11 offensive categories that first year and was tops in attendance. Easterling was the WBL's first MVP and Waddy-Rossow its inaugural scoring champ.
"My best memory of coaching the Hustle was the warm and enthusiastic reception we received from Chicago," Bruno said. "In the days before cable TV, our games were televised on superstation WGN and shown around the country. We were the only team with that kind of TV exposure.
"Legendary Cubs broadcaster Vince Lloyd and Bulls analyst Johnny "Red" Kerr were the announcers and current SCORE Radio host Les Grobstein called the games on radio. We had full-time beat writers---Lacy Banks from the Sun-Times and Bill Jauss from the Tribune."
It was also a special moment for one of Bruno's Hustle players and former DePaul assistant coach Liz Galloway-McQuitter.
"However, this league was started by those who were nameless outside their local towns and universities. In a post-Title IX era that saw women's basketball surge and become more than the depiction of a novice sport, these women forged the way and propelled the league and the sport forward.
"It was the pure love of the game and a chance to continue that love affair that provided the hook for many of us. Every mountain that was climbed, every glass ceiling shattered, every champion who provided support, a platform and an opportunity---every sacrifice and every obstacle overcome led us to this day."
Bruno recalls how he landed with the Hustle.
"I was coaching at DePaul when athletic director Gene Sullivan assigned me to negotiate with the Hustle about playing its home games at Alumni Hall," Bruno said. "Team president John Geraty would come down to Lincoln Park and wait for me to finish up practices.
"All those times he waited, he observed my coaching style. That's when he offered me the job."
Galloway-McQuitter knows why she is now enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
"While many have fought for our induction over the years, it was the constant efforts and final push of Doug Bruno and Annie Meyers-Drysdale (WBL-New Jersey) that finally got us in," she said. "To all of them, we extend our eternal gratitude."
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