End of an era: DePaul AD Jean Lenti Ponsetto announces retirement

  • DePaul women's basketball coach Doug Bruno, here after his team won the Big East tournament title in March, said retiring Athletic Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto has meant the world to the university in her 46 years.

    DePaul women's basketball coach Doug Bruno, here after his team won the Big East tournament title in March, said retiring Athletic Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto has meant the world to the university in her 46 years. Associated Press

  • DePaul Athletic Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto recently announced her retirement.

    DePaul Athletic Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto recently announced her retirement. Courtesy of DePaul

 
 
Updated 6/12/2020 2:59 PM

It's been nearly 50 years of a working relationship, nearly 50 years of a friendship, nearly 50 years of being family.

Don't think for a minute DePaul coach Doug Bruno is the teacher's pet of Athletic Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Bruno, longtime women's basketball coach, coached Lenti Ponsetto when she was a point guard and captain on his first teams at in the mid-1970s.

And sure, they have worked side-by-side in the athletic department for decades, and attend the other's family gatherings.

But if the law needs to be laid down, the easy and kind Lenti Ponsetto will step into that role.

Even with Bruno, arguably the most successful head coach on campus for decades.

"People need to understand just because Jean played for me doesn't mean that Bruno would get anything I wanted," Bruno said with a laugh as he referred to himself. "If Jean needed to be tough with Bruno, or if Bruno was out of line, she'd close the door and she'd be tough with Bruno. She wouldn't hold back.

"The thing about Jean is she brought this toughness and, simultaneously, a likability to her job. She created a positive and happy-to-be-at-work environment."

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Lenti Ponsetto's days of work at her beloved DePaul are numbered. By announcing her retirement last week, her 46 years of affiliation with the university will be ending within the next year.

Lenti Ponsetto, facing treatment for a third bout with breast cancer, will help in the transition of her successor.

In the meantime, Bruno is happy to speak about what Lenti Ponsetto, athletic director the last 18 years, has meant to him and the athletic department.

"In 46 years of coaching women's basketball, Jean has been the best captain I've ever had," Bruno said. "That has proved itself over time as she worked her way through the athletic department.

"Jean was a great teammate when she played. She had this great intuitive ability to mesh being a coach on the floor with knowing what the team and the rest of the players needed at any given time. That's what makes her so good as an athletic director. She leads but she also gets to know people and what they need.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"She knows every athlete's name at DePaul. She knows about them. That sounds trivial, but that's so big."

As of 2018, 39 of the 339 Division I schools in the U.S. had a female athletic director.

Clearly, Lenti Ponsetto, who assumed her position as athletic director in the early 2000s, was a trailblazer. She presided over widespread success at DePaul. During her tenure, Bruno's women's basketball team has been to 17 straight NCAA tournaments while the softball team went to two college World Series and the men's and women's soccer teams won Big East championships.

"Jean is a Blue Demon through and through," DePaul President Gabriel Esteban said. "Her contributions over the years have been significant and we wish her well in her retirement. Jean's leadership has withstood the test of time and her career at DePaul has been filled with many accomplishments, which we plan to recognize in an appropriate way when we can."

That will be a bittersweet day for Bruno, who is happy his longtime friend will get a much-deserved break to focus on herself and her health. But he is sad her tenure is over.

"Jean and I are like sister and brother," Bruno said. "I'm not a card-carrying member of the Lenti family, but there's that closeness with us. I can tell her anything. I'm going to miss that. I'm going to miss Jean every day. We all will.

"But at the same time, if she doesn't have to be here 24/7 and can be in a better place, especially with her health, then I'm happy for her. I want the best for her."

• Twitter: @babcockmcgraw

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