Caprice Smith begins coaching career at DePaul

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Photo courtesy of DePaul athletics

Caprice Smith drives to the basket against Northwestern. Smith was hired by DePaul to be the women’s basketball team’s video coordinator.

Caprice Smith has had an aspiration to coach at DePaul for multiple years. But when she reached out to women’s basketball coach Doug Bruno a couple of years ago to inquire about an opening, the spot was already filled. 

A couple of years later, however, another possible opening appeared in Bruno’s staff, and Smith didn’t waste any time in trying to fill that position.

When former video coordinator Jacqui Grant left DePaul to take an assistant coach position at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, Bruno reached out to Smith to see if she was interested in the position. 

Not only was Smith excited about the prospect of coaching at DePaul, but it only took her a couple of seconds to accept the job.

“I believe it was three or four years ago that I reached out to Doug about an opening in his staff, when coach Bart Brooks left, and he had already filled the position,” Smith said. “But I had just given him an inkling that I was interested in college coaching. 

Smith played at DePaul from 2004-08, playing in 129 games and averaging 5.5 rebounds per game. Her time with the women’s basketball program was just the beginning of DePaul’s 18-year consecutive run to the NCAA Tournament. 

Now, 12 years later, Smith is returning to DePaul, but this time looking to use her knowledge of the game to help the current Blue Demon players. 

“I feel excited to be back at the school,” Smith said. “I kinda feel like this is home. It’s like I’m coming home for the first time in awhile. Coaching with Doug, he’s been instrumental with my coaching career. It feels like being home. Everyone is familiar.”

Smith began her coaching career in 2009, but at the high school level. She was the assistant girl’s basketball coach at Montini high school in Lombard, Illinois. In 10 years with the school, Smith was instrumental in the basketball team winning four state championships in nine state finals appearances.  

Bruno made sure to watch Smith from afar when DePaul was recruiting or watching players from Montini. 

“Every interaction you have as a human is an interview,” Bruno said. “We are there watching Montini playing Benet, and evaluating Kendall Holmes or Montini playing Lake Park and evaluating Darrione Rogers. But you are also noticing how Caprice is handling herself on the bench. How she is supporting the head coach. How she is relating to her athletes when they come off the floor. This community of coaching doesn’t take place in a vacuum. You are noticing all these things, and noticing how engaged Caprice was.”

Smith isn’t the first former player that Bruno has brought back to be on the coaching staff. Grant, who held Smith’s current position, played for the Blue Demons from 2015-17. 

But Bruno talks about the loyalty aspect when bringing back former players because they have an understanding of how DePaul operates and can relate to the players. 

“Most coaches when you ask them what’s the first ingredient you want in an assistant, they usually say loyalty,” Bruno said. “I believe the only way you get loyalty is to give loyalty. By offering jobs to your former players, you are showing them loyalty. But they are also familiar with your program, they have lived through the eyes of the athletes. They’ve had the tough days where they had four papers due the next day, and then a game against Rutgers coming up the next day… Caprice has been through it, she understands the ups and downs, the ins and outs.” 

Speaking of Rutgers, Smith remembers the game against the Scarlet Knights in 2006 when the Blue Demons won 87-73. Rutgers would then go on to make the NCAA Tournament championship game before losing to Tennessee, 59-46. 

“I remember our first Big East Tournament, beating Rutgers the year they went to the national championship,” Smith said. “There’s so many great memories here.”

Smith’s coaching time at DePaul only began a month ago, but everyone has had to adjust to a new normal with the COVID-19 pandemic. DePaul has only recently started to practice, but Smith says everyone is handling the current situation very well.

“I didn’t know what to expect with the COVID situation, but nothing really stands out, except for how well everyone at DePaul is handling it,” Smith said. “All the precautions that have taken place, I think they are doing an amazing job.”