Bruno Will Live in the Moment for the 800th Time at DePaul
Nov. 29, 2012
CHICAGO – Another milestone in an illustrious career will be reached on Sunday when Doug Bruno coaches in his 800th women’s basketball game for DePaul.
In a profession where programs change coaches in a steady fashion, such longevity speaks to the unique skill set that Bruno has brought to Lincoln Park.
What No. 800 means to the Blue Demon coach is an opportunity to face a talented Northwestern team that is 6-0 with all five starters averaging in double figures.
“You don’t count as you go,” Bruno said. “I’ve been doing this for a long time, and you are constantly living in the moment.
“The moment is a very good Northwestern team coming in here on Sunday. The significance is the game on Sunday and not the amount of games I have coached at DePaul.
“Northwestern coach Joe McKeown has five players who are really good, and that’s what we have to deal with at 4 p.m. on Sunday. A coach and a team are only as good as their last game, and we weren’t very good against South Carolina. Longevity is a function of winning one game in a row a lot of times.”
Playing their fifth game in eight days, the Blue Demons fell to NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 qualifier South Carolina in last Saturday’s title game of the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands.
“It’s been a week of angst-filled critiques about what we didn’t do right against South Carolina and what needs to be fixed,” Bruno said. “These kinds of weeks don’t end.
“It was nice to go to the Virgin Islands, and we finished up 4-1 after playing five games in eight days in the middle of final exams. We were down Anna Martin and Megan Podkowa, but it’s still all about the players in that moment---and we weren’t our best against South Carolina.”
When DePaul is at its best, those are moments to behold.
Bruno will always remember March 20, 2006---a day that began with the wake for legendary Blue Demon men’s basketball coach Ray 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 while mourning the passing of his mentor.
“It was a very emotional day for Doug,” said Blankson who played four years for Bruno and has been on his staff 12 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 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 coach Bruno's life he will remember forever. He 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.”
Yet 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 defeats.”
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 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.
“Another element of the 800th game is the beauty of the sport and that every game takes on a life of its own,” Bruno said. “It is a drama played out by real-life, flesh-and-blood people.
“Every single one of the last 799 games has been played out by DePaul student-athletes. They might not realize it at the time, but all of those games were special. I’m the person in charge, and each game is really a different drama with a life of its own, and yet it is connected to the previous game.”
When Bruno takes the court named in his honor on Sunday for No. 800, that will also be the 484th game with Blankson on his team.
“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.
“Since I've become an assistant coach, I don’t think our relationship has 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 three years ago.
“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.”
Yet another example of Doug Bruno living in the moment.