Doug Bruno enters his 30th season coaching the DePaul women's basketball program.
Nov. 13, 2015
CHICAGO – It has been quite a ride for Doug Bruno as the DePaul women’s basketball coach heads into his 30th season with the Blue Demons Friday night in the season opener against Southern Illinois.
Bruno will begin the 7 p.m. tipoff at McGrath-Phillips Arena with an overall coaching record of 627-339 with a collegiate record of 587-309.
His No. 22 Blue Demons are one of only seven programs to have advanced to the NCAA tournament each of the last 13 years.
Take a moment or two to let that settle in. Now, check out the other six women’s basketball teams that can make the same claim---Connecticut, Notre Dame, Stanford, Tennessee, Duke and Oklahoma. We’re breathing some extremely rarified air here.
Bruno’s college coaching resume is highlighted by NCAA Sweet 16 appearances in 2006, 2011 and 2014.
“I would be nothing at DePaul without coach Ray Meyer,” Bruno said about the legendary men’s basketball coach. “I have to thank coach Ray for giving me a chance and giving me a basketball scholarship. Before these 30 years of coaching here, I was blessed to play for coach Ray and also Frank McGrath.
“I think of all the talented former women’s basketball players and assistant coaches that are such great people. Jean Lenti Ponsetto, our athletics director, was the best captain I ever had in my 42-year coaching career.
“A number like 30 doesn’t mean anything, but people mean everything.”
When DePaul and Bruno are at their best, those are moments to behold.
Bruno will always remember March 20, 2006---a day that began with the wake for Meyer and ended with his team rallying for a 71-67 win over Tulsa that sent DePaul to its first NCAA Tournament Sweet 16. Trailing 67-61, Khara Smith & Co. scored the final 10 points.
“It was an unbelievably hard day,” Bruno recalled. “It was a special day, and a really special game.”
Assistant coach Candis Blankson said she can only imagine how Bruno must have felt.
“It was a very emotional day for Doug,” said Blankson who played four years for Bruno and has been on his staff 15 years. “He is an emotional guy, but he held it all in that day to be strong in front of the team. Before the game, all the players wrote inscriptions on their shoes like ‘We Love You Coach Ray.’
“After that game, it felt like Coach Ray was looking down on us and gave us a little something extra from the basketball gods.
“It was a time in his life he will remember forever. Coach Bruno is an emotional person who has shed a tear or two in front of the team when dealing with sensitive subjects.
“The end of that game must have been a release of happiness and sadness.”
Another rally put the Blue Demons back in the NCAA Sweet 16 in March of 2011 when Keisha Hampton sparked a second-half comeback that overcame a 14-point deficit in a 75-73 victory over Penn State on the Nittany Lions’ home court.
“Those were both special games that helped define our program,” Bruno said. “We also got better by playing the top teams in the country---beating No. 2 Stanford and No. 3 Louisiana Tech.
“Those were great wins for our program, but coaches always remember the losses. We had No. 1 Connecticut and No. 2 Tennessee beaten and didn’t finish them off. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about those games.”
In December of 2003, the Blue Demons with Khara Smith and Jenni Dant led Tennessee 81-77 with 1 minute, 30 seconds left and a standing-room home crowd screaming for the upset. The Volunteers rallied to tie it in regulation and won 96-89 in overtime.
“Clearly, they were the better team for 40 minutes,” legendary Tennessee coach Pat Summitt had said after the game.
In March of 2008, DePaul led No. 1 UConn by 17 points early in the second half before a sold-out McGrath Arena crowd. UConn battled back, but Allie Quigley’s baseline jumper with 30.9 seconds left gave the Blue Demons a 76-74 lead. A Huskie free throw with 14.6 seconds left followed by a Maya Moore steal set the stage for Ketia Swanier’s basket with 1.6 seconds on the clock in UConn’s 77-76 win.
Bruno kept a personal milestone very confidential during the 2014 NCAA tournament. Then, right after the Blue Demons upset No. 2 seed Duke 74-65 on Duke’s home court and advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16, he revealed the big secret.
Brittany Hrynko, Jasmine Penny, Chanise Jenkins, Megan Rogowski, Megan Podkowa and all the rest had just given their coach his 600th coaching victory.
“The thing I’m really thrilled about is that we were able to keep it a secret before the game,” Bruno said as his eyes lit up. “I didn’t want it to be a distraction.
“Every one of these milestones is a team success, a victory for the program. What we’ve done is win one game in a row 600 times.
“All of this is because of the wonderful support from our administration led by university president Father Dennis H. Holtschneider and our AD Jeanne. We have a great coaching staff and great players. I’m grateful for Jeanne as the athletic director who had the trust to hire me and the trust to keep me here.
“Players win games. It was our basketball players who beat Duke. It’s always about the players.”
Every one of those 600 wins is a testament to a local Chicago guy who did his overachieving best playing for Meyer and never forgot what a series of mentors taught him.
“I don’t go a day here without thanking Ray Meyer, Frank McGrath and Gene Sullivan,” Bruno said. “I wouldn’t be here today without Coach Ray putting me on DePaul’s basketball team. It was through Coach Ray that I got to know Frank McGrath. It was Gene Sullivan who got me into coaching.
“I have to thank my Quigley South High School coach Dick Flaiz for providing the motivation to pursue a career in coaching.”
"The goal today is to build a program that perennially fights to win the NCAA championship. That final goal is what drives me forward every day. We are always trying to achieve a greater success.”
In this 30th season heading up the Blue Demons, Bruno hasn’t lost an ounce of the drive that first brought him to Lincoln Park in 1968 as a student-athlete.
“Once you lose the passion for achieving a greater goal, that’s when you should hang them up,” Bruno said.
What happens after you win a national title?
“Then the goal is to win eight more.”
Blankson has a pretty good idea what makes Bruno unique.
“The reason for his endurance is Doug’s love for the game and his passion for teaching it at all levels---his campers, high school kids, college players,” Blankson said. “It’s his passion and competitiveness that keeps him going.
“When I became an assistant coach, I don’t think our relationship changed. He is a really straight-forward person with everyone. He is the reason I’ve learned a lot about life and basketball.
“I’m around him a lot more as a coach, and that’s where you really see the kind of person he is---how much he cares about the homeless and the underprivileged. That’s just the kind of guy he is.”
Blankson recalls one humanitarian moment during a road trip to Stanford and Las Vegas in 2009.
“We had a late dinner at a nice Italian restaurant and there was no place for leftovers since we were leaving the next morning,” Blankson said. “We drove around afterwards looking for some homeless people and gave it to them.
“That’s typical of Doug. There have been lots of incidents like that. It’s a no-brainer for him.”
The 2015-16 DePaul women's basketball tickets are on sale now at www.depaulbluedemons.com/tickets. Join in and be part of the BIG EAST action all season long at McGrath-Phillips Arena. Flexible mini packages including the PICK 6 and UConn+1 as well as group ticket offers are also available for purchase and feature great savings off of single game ticket rates. Call the DePaul ticket office at (773) 325-SLAM (7526) and speak with a ticket representative to learn more about joining the excitement of DePaul athletics.