725 and counting: Doug Bruno becomes DePaul’s all-time winningest basketball coach

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Eric Henry/The DePaulia

DePaul women’s basketball head coach Doug Bruno smiles during his team’s 86-62 win over No. 9 Kentucky on Dec. 16 at Wintrust Arena.

While DePaul women’s basketball head coach Doug Bruno was doing his press conference after he won his 725th game at DePaul against No. 9 Kentucky on Dec. 16 at Wintrust Arena, he had to stop himself and acknowledge the man he passed to become the school’s all-time winningest coach: Ray Meyer. 

“I feel bad standing here talking without recognizing that I had nothing at DePaul without coach Ray Meyer,” Bruno said after the game. “I don’t look at this as beating out coach Ray Meyer’s record. Doug Bruno wouldn’t be at DePaul without coach Ray Meyer. All of us who got to play for coach Ray were really, truly blessed to have coach include us in his DePaul life.”

Meyer was DePaul’s men’s basketball coach from 1942-84 and oversaw the program’s first and only Final Four appearance in 1979. He also led the Blue Demons to the National Invitational Tournament championship in 1945.

Bruno played for the legendary coach from 1969-73 and was part of two winning teams, but never reached the NCAA Tournament in those four years. 

But he followed in Meyer’s footsteps by becoming DePaul’s women’s basketball coach in 1976 before leaving in 1978 to become the head coach of the Chicago Hustle, which was a team in the Women’s Professional Basketball League from 1978-81.

Bruno then returned to DePaul in 1988 in his previous role, and it has resulted in three decades of success. 

He has guided the Blue Demons to 18 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, six Big East regular season and six conference tournament titles. And he now holds the most wins in DePaul basketball history. 

“You don’t get into coaching where you are counting wins — you are in it for the competitiveness, you are in it for the teaching, you are in it for the relationships, you are in it for so many reasons different than just counting W’s,” Bruno said in an interview with The DePaulia. “I just don’t look at it like it’s a record that’s a comparison to coach [Meyer].” 

The success that Bruno has had at DePaul doesn’t come without having good players in the program that go out and get wins. For over three decades, he has been able to recruit the right student-athletes who have fit his system and his vision for the team. 

“To recruit the best players that are also the best people, the best service leaders, the best students we can find to compete here at DePaul,” Bruno said. “Basically, those are the two simple goals and that hasn’t wavered, that hasn’t changed. You can’t achieve what we are trying to achieve without envisioning it, having a vision, seeing it happen before it happens. But at the same time you teach your players how to vision, how to develop a vision and make it happen — but you still have to live in the moment. I still relish the moment-to-moment teaching and development of all our young women that takes place every single day.”

One of the reasons why Bruno got into coaching was, like he mentioned, building those relationships and bonds that last forever, and go beyond just the wins and losses on the court. He has coached hundreds of players in his career, and he has also seen how those players grew from young women to adults during their time at DePaul.

Some of his former players decided to play professional basketball and have made long careers for themselves, most notably Chicago Sky star Allie Quigley. But most players stop playing basketball after their four years of college athletics are up, and end up doing something else when they graduate.

Regardless of what each player does after they leave DePaul, Bruno always considers them to be friends and he continues to support them in whatever they decide to do. 

“It’s not like we stay close, close after they graduate, but at the same time, I’d like to think when they do come back and when we are out together later on in life, we do have a lot of fun together,” Bruno said. “And after the players play here and go on with their lives, I do consider them friends. It’s really a joy to watch them succeed in whatever chosen field they have chosen. To watch their success, you are like a proud parent when you watch these players graduate from DePaul, play basketball as long as they can, but then go on to be successful in so many different areas of life.”

When it comes to coaching and winning games, Bruno is as competitive as there is in basketball. It’s one of the reasons why he continues to coach, because there is still one goal he has yet to accomplish: a Final Four appearance. 

The Blue Demons have been a regular in the NCAA Tournament for almost two decades, but the farthest they have made it is to the Sweet Sixteen, which they have reached three times. 

Bruno is not in the business of looking back and seeing what he has already accomplished. Instead, he is looking forward and trying to make that elusive Final Four appearance — just like his former coach did in 1979.

“To me, it’s what we are still trying to achieve,” Bruno said. “I really focus my mindset on what we are still striving to achieve, not at all at what we have achieved … But when it comes to looking back, I don’t do that. I just think about looking forward and what we still have to get done. I try to keep my mind focused on driving my mind forward as to what we still need to get done, not looking back at what already happened. We know that happened, nobody is going to take that from us, but we are still striving to get this program to reach our goal, which is a Final Four, championship program year-in, year-out. We are not there yet.”