DePaul's Bruno always more than just a head coach
After 30 years on the job, DePaul women's basketball coach Doug Bruno logged the 600th win of his Division I coaching career last week.
Perhaps the only thing that rivals that number in Bruno's world is the nearly 600 other jobs he had to do around the athletic department during his early years.
Long before charter flights for his team, a healthy six-figure salary, a full staff and an arena court that is named in his honor, Bruno got his start completing tasks that would be unheard of for coaches in Division I athletics today.
Bruno, whose No. 24 Blue Demons earned him win No. 600 at Butler on Jan. 15, was a jack-of-all-trades in 1976, his first year as women's basketball coach.
"It was the best experience of my life," Bruno said of his early days. "To be able to understand the whole process of college athletics and to be involved in so many parts of it was invaluable."
Bruno, a DePaul graduate who was 26 when he got his first job at his alma mater, was not paid to coach the women until his third season. Until then, he held down all kinds of jobs around the DePaul athletic department in addition to his coaching job. He was also the assistant athletic director of facilities, which meant he was in charge of everything related to DePaul's old Alumni Hall off Belden Ave.
"Everything from getting TV trucks in the right place to making sure bathrooms were clean for games. Just anything with the stadium," Bruno said. "It's a big job. It certainly gives me an appreciation for what our people here do now."
If that wasn't enough, Bruno was also the business director and in charge of tickets for DePaul. In an age when little was computerized, Bruno kept track of season ticket holders and ticket requests on index cards.
And whenever he was needed, which was often, Bruno would settle into press row for men's games and call the action on the radio as DePaul's color analyst.
"I was cheap," Bruno said with a laugh.
That didn't stop Bruno from using his own money to buy a cargo van to transport his players to road games. Otherwise, the women were expected to drive themselves.
After one player's car broke down returning from a road trip to Western Illinois, Bruno decided to purchase the van.
"It was snowing that night and it's a tough drive from Macomb and we didn't get back to Chicago until four or five in the morning," Bruno said. "We got the van and that was good, but it was still pretty basic. It was 13 women sitting in the back on a cold floor. Eventually we saved up enough money to put speakers in that thing.
"I think a lot about those first teams when I think of (a milestone such 600 wins)."
Of course, Bruno thinks a lot about everyone in the Blue Demon family on such an occasion, the hundreds of players and dozens of coaches who have contributed to all of his victories. Many of them happily return to Lincoln Park each year when DePaul hosts its annual alumni game.
"Most of all, I think about the players. The players are the ones who win the games," Bruno said. "What we do as coaches is we teach the process necessary to have a chance to be good and get better. It's the players who have to buy into the process.
"With all the things I did at DePaul, and I enjoyed all of it, my favorite part of the day was and still is the two hours I get to spend in the gym during practice coaching my players."
Bruno was 601-315 in his 30 years at DePaul heading into Friday's Big East Conference game against visiting Creighton. Overall, Bruno is 641-345 for his career, which includes two years of coaching the Chicago Hustle, a pro women's team in the late 1970s.
Only four active Division I coaches to have amassed 600 wins at the same school. The others are Geno Auriemma of Connecticut, Harry Perretta of Villanova and Robin Selvig of Montana. And only 19 coaches in the history of Division I women's basketball have reached 600 wins.
"If you do something like this for a lot of years, the numbers are going to add up," the always humble Bruno said. "I never went into this saying, 'I'm going to be at DePaul forever.' I also never thought that coaching women's basketball would become a lifelong passion.
"But what I've come to learn is that the head, heart and guts of a champion transcend gender. It's been an honor to be a part of the fight for gender equity in this country. It's been an honor for me to coach all these women over the years."
• Patricia Babcock McGraw covers high school and women's sports for the Daily Herald. She is also a TV color analyst and sideline reporter for women's basketball games with the Chicago Sky, DePaul, the Big East, Northern Illinois and the Big Ten, as well as the IHSA girls state championships. Contact her via email at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @babcockmcgraw.