DePaul's Bruno is Ready to Go for Olympic Gold
July 25, 2012
CHICAGO – There’s a good chance Doug Bruno will have a case of the chills on Friday night as the DePaul women’s basketball coach takes a stroll around London’s 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium with the rest of the USA Olympic Team.
With his head held high and his heart pounding, Bruno will be living the dream of so many in the wide world of sports as he participates in the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Summer Olympics as an assistant coach on the USA Women’s Basketball Team.
He will be humbled by the cast of 15,000 performing in the Opening and Closing Ceremonies that will be watched by an estimated audience of four billion.
Friday’s Opening Ceremony will be highlighted by the parade of the 205 competing nations and the entrance of the Olympic Flame.
On Saturday, Team USA opens up against Croatia, the same team the Americans defeated 109-55 in a July 21 exhibition game in Istanbul, Turkey.
Initially, he was so caught up in preparations for the month-long journey that the Blue Demon coach didn’t have a chance to think about its significance.
But just before he departed on a July 13 flight to Washington, D.C., Bruno took a moment to reflect on this lifetime achievement.
“I’m starting to realize the magnitude of the Olympics as an event,” Bruno said. “Chicago had two World’s Fairs, and this has replaced the World’s Fair.
“Think of the magnitude in terms of the number of different countries, number of sports, number of athletes and coaches all assembled in one place for a singular sporting event. That is just starting to hit me.
“I’m used to going to a Cubs or Sox game, a Bulls or DePaul men’s basketball game. I’m not used to this festival of sports that is the Olympics.”
What he is accustomed to is poring over video and scouting reports in preparing a plan of action for USA head coach and close friend Geno Auriemma of Connecticut.
“Game preparation is my strength,” Bruno said. “Hey, with just eight practices before our first game, we’re not going to be working on skill development.
“Preparing for the opponent and how best to utilize our 12 players---that’s what I’ll be working on.”
The early returns are highly promising that Team USA can win its fifth consecutive Olympic gold medal.
The Americans cruised past Brazil, Great Britain, Croatia and Turkey in exhibition games July 16-22. The closest game was an 80-61 victory over Turkey.
All of this from a team that began playing together on July 14 for the first time since winning the FIBA World Championship in 2010 with Auriemma as the head coach and Bruno as an assistant coach.
“We’re going against teams that have been together playing in 45 or 50 games since Jan. 1st,” Bruno said. “We’ll have played four games since mid-July.
“Eight of our team members were playing against each other in the WNBA as recently as July 13. None of the European standouts played in the WNBA this season. They stayed home to get ready for the Olympics.”
It’s a tribute to Jim Tooley and Carol Callen at USA Basketball and the previous Olympic coaching staffs that the USA has won the last four Olympic titles despite such last-minute preparation.
“People think it’s easy to win four gold medals in a row,” Bruno said. “I compare this to picking up players at the last minute in a station wagon to go play a 16-inch softball championship game.
“How do we do it? We have talented players who are very unselfish. We have the kind of team that can play half-court basketball or get out in the open court and play full-court fabulous.
“We’ve had snippets together since the 2008 Olympics. We went to one tournament with three Olympians and another with four. We won the world championship in 2010 without Candace Parker and Seimone Augustus who were both injured.”
Parker, the 6-foot, 4-inch high school All-American from Naperville Central and collegiate All-American from Tennessee, is back to her dominant self and playing the best basketball of her career according to Bruno.
Along with Bruno and Parker, there are three other Team USA players with local connections. Tamika Catchings was an All-American at Stevenson High School and Tennessee while Swin Cash and 6-6 Sylvia Fowles are WNBA standouts with the Chicago Sky.
“What we’ve got are the most highly competitive athletes in the world playing for us,” Bruno said. “We have exceptional players at every position---guards, wing players and post players.”
Fowles, Parker, 6-4 former Connecticut great Tina Charles and ex-UConn star 6-3 Asjha Jones will look to dominate inside. The wing players include Catchings, Cash, Augustus and Connecticut’s most recent star, Maya Moore.
In the backcourt are former UConn greats Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird along with Lindsay Whalen and Angel McCoughtry.
“Argentina and Russia will be our biggest challenges,” Bruno said. “They have been waiting four years since the Beijing Olympics to beat us.”
After Saturday's opener are games against Angola (July 30), Turkey (Aug. 1), Czech Republic (Aug. 3), China (Aug. 5), the quarterfinals (Aug. 7), semifinals (Aug. 9) and the gold medal game on Aug. 11.
“I’m sure at some point it will hit me that this whole experience is taking place,” Bruno said. “It will happen during the Opening Ceremony. It will hit me when our team is making great plays.
“I’m sure it will hit me after it’s all over.”