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The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

Doug Bruno completes 50 years of coaching and is ready for more

DePaul Library Special Collections
Doug Bruno (No. 30, bottom row, second from far right) poses with the DePaul Blue Demons men’s basketball team prior to the 1969-70 season.

With a decorated office filled with NCAA trophies catching perfect sunlight from the window, cut-down basketball nets, degrees mounted on the wall and photos of family members on shelves, Doug Bruno continues his monumental coaching career by keeping his inspirations close and his desire for more success even closer. 

“Juiced, energized and can’t wait to get back on the court,” Bruno said immediately upon sitting down with The DePaulia. 

After finishing an honorable milestone of 50 seasons coaching, 38 leading the DePaul women’s basketball team, Bruno only looks forward to the goals he still wants to achieve. 

A Chicago native born and raised, the Hall of Fame coach, inducted in June 2022, has dedicated his life to his hometown and basketball. He went to Quigley South High School, played basketball at DePaul and followed his passion for the game to coaching. 

“I don’t really look back and say, ‘That was my 50th year,’” Bruno said. “I’m just very excited. We’re already back working out, I just can’t wait to help our players help themselves get better.”

Bruno began his coaching career in 1973 as an assistant boy’s coach at Francis Parker High School, then became head coach at Saint Vincent DePaul High School for the 1974-75 season. He debuted as the DePaul women’s coach in 1976 for two seasons, then did a stint as the coach for the Chicago Hustle in the Women’s Basketball League (WBL) in 1978-79 before serving as an assistant for Loyola Chicago men’s basketball for eight seasons. Bruno returned to the Blue Demons in 1988 and hasn’t left since. He admitted he never thought he would stay at DePaul for so long.

“First of all, I was blessed to play for Coach (Ray) Meyer,” Bruno said. “Coach Meyer gave me the scholarship and the opportunity to play here.” 

The DePaul alum played under the legendary Ray Meyer 1969-73 and alongside his son, Joey Meyer for two of those seasons. Bruno led the 1971-72 team in assists and made relationships during his time as an athlete that played a significant role in his stay at the university for years to come. 

Doug Bruno puts up a shot in a DePaul Blue Demons men’s basketball game during the 1972-73 season. (DePaul Library Special Collections)

“Three of the people I have been influenced by — the Ray Meyer Center, the Sullivan Athletic Center, the McGrath Arena,” Bruno said. “I’ve been blessed to have had all of them in my life.”

The three buildings stand in Lincoln Park in honor of the Meyers, Gene Sullivan and Frank McGrath. 

Sullivan was DePaul’s athletic director from 1975 to 1978.

“Gene Sullivan brought me back here,” Bruno said. “I didn’t know Sullivan and Sullivan didn’t know me. He hired me with us not knowing one another, and people don’t realize that.” 

Sullivan and Bruno also coached together for eight seasons at Loyola. 

McGrath once was a coach to Bruno as Ray’s assistant, then became DePaul’s assistant athletic director and director of facilities.

Another inspiration in Bruno’s career is English professor Patricia Ewers

Bruno received his bachelor’s degree in 1973 and later got his master’s in 1988, both in English. 

“I neglected my college scholarship here because I spent too much time on basketball and not enough time in the classroom. Dr. Ewers grabbed me back into the class,” Bruno said. “So, when I’m preaching about how good we do academically, it’s because I abused the system and didn’t maximize my opportunity academically. That’s what makes me so adamant that my players are not going to do what I did.”

Bruno’s phone rang with DePaul’s Blue Demon fight song as his wife, Patty, was calling him. The Brunos have six sons: Bradley, Patrick, Brendan, David, Kevin and Bryan. Bradley most recently joined his father on the court sidelines as an assistant coach last season. 

I’ve actually witnessed this here before, the father-son situation,” Bruno said, referencing Ray and Joey. “It was great to have him. I really have trouble talking about Bradley without talking about my entire staff. … I feel like I am blessed to have a great, great staff.”

Bruno’s favorite memories are watching his players graduate and move on to the next chapter of their lives, whether that’s in or outside of basketball. 

Diana Vines, who had her jersey retired at Wintrust Arena Feb. 25, played under Bruno for the 1988-89 season. She finished her DePaul career with 2,504 points, and still 40 years later, is Depaul’s all-time leader in steals, field goals, free throws and second in rebounds. The two finished that season first in the conference and won the Big East championship. 

As Bruno stood in the back of Wintrust’s press conference room, watching his former player talk to the media after her ceremony and the game, he couldn’t help but smile and become a bit teary-eyed.

“Coach Bruno, he is a wizard of the game,” Vines said. “For me to think that he sees me as that, it makes me feel good. It makes me warm, it does. Thank you, coach Bruno.” 

Jeanne Lenti Ponsetto, former director of athletics and another mentor to Bruno, helped him understand and become confident as a women’s sports leader. 

“She was guidance through that world (of women’s basketball) because she was a very high level administrator, not just here at DePaul, but on NCAA committees,” Bruno said. “She became a mentor for me navigating what it is to be a women’s basketball coach.”  

Current player Jorie Allen also has a special relationship with Bruno. Allen is a graduate student and will be entering her sixth year of college basketball and her fifth under Bruno. He helped her find passion for the game when she lost it at one point. 

“I love the game and there was a time in my career where I didn’t,” Allen said. “Going through transferring, and then coming in and going through an injury, it takes a toll on your spirit and your passion for the game. My favorite thing about coach Bruno is he always emphasizes love of the game.” 

Bruno has also competed at the highest level. With years of involvement with USA basketball, he added some gold medals to his resume and has coached some of the world’s best players. He helped Team USA reach the FIBA World Championships in 2010 and 2014, and he was on the coaching squad for the team’s fifth and sixth consecutive Olympic gold in 2012 and 2016. He currently serves as the chair of the selection committee for the U19 and U18 national teams. 

“Coaching the USA teams at any level is always special,” Bruno said. “When you’re privileged to be able to represent the United States of America on a worldwide stage through basketball, it is always special.” 

Bruno has coached, so far, 15 players that have gone onto the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). 

In addition to the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, Bruno is also named in the DePaul Athletics Hall of Fame, the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame, the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association (IBCA) Hall of Fame, the National Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame and was named a nominee for the 2023 Naismith Hall of Fame. 

“You don’t have time to think about what you’ve done in the past,” Bruno said. “I think about the players and their successes after basketball.” 

DePaul has made it in the NCAA Tournament 25 times under Bruno, made four Sweet 16 appearances and claimed the Big East title nine times. 

“We want to take this to another level, start moving the program toward getting to the Final Four,” Bruno said. “Right now, we have to get back to the NCAA tournament.”

With five decades of coaching under his belt and a current winning 786-405 overall record at DePaul, Bruno’s contract was extended in 2019 going through the 2024-25 season. 

Bruno is not thinking about taking a break to look at the career he’s had. 

“We still have many miles to go before we sleep,” Bruno said. “My mind is driven forward, not backwards. When the day comes and we’re done coaching, then there will be time to reflect. When it’s over.”

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