Women’s Professional Basketball League HOF recognition includes DePaul connections


Josh Leff

Women’s basketball head coach Doug Bruno. (Josh Leff / The DePaulia)

The Women’s Professional Basketball League (abbreviated WBL) existed for three seasons from 1978 until 1981.

Recently, it re-entered collective consciousness when the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn. recognized the league as “Trailblazers of the Game” at the hall’s 2018 induction ceremony in June. About 100 WBL members attended the ceremony, and each received a commemorative pin and posed for a group photo.

“The Trailblazers award goes to those who pave the way and being the first professional women’s league is a pretty big first,” Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame Marketing and Development Manager Kelsie Crittendon said.

Why should you care? The WBL has a Chicago connection and it traces back to, you guessed it, DePaul Blue Demon women’s head basketball coach Doug Bruno.

Bruno coached the Chicago Hustle for the first two seasons of WBL’s existence, accumulating 36 wins against 32 losses during his time at the helm of that team. In its first season, the Hustle led the WBL in 11 offensive categories and in average attendance while also winning their division.

“My best memory of coaching the Hustle was the warm and enthusiastic reception we received from Chicago,” Bruno said via an article released by the DePaul University athletic department. “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.”

Bruno isn’t the only Blue Demon connection to the WBL. Liz Galloway-McQuitter, who was an assistant coach under Bruno at DePaul from 1989 until 1991, played for Bruno when he coached the Chicago Hustle.

The WBL was the first-ever professional women’s basketball league. The league will become part of an exhibit that includes eight other teams and organizations that the hall of fame also recognizes as trailblazers of the game.