DePaul’s Doug Bruno reflects on a career powered — and inspired — by women

Miller Lite on the ice? It must be an acquired taste, although it is assumed that if a person is going to shut down a bar, party until 2am, at the age of 71, it might as well be their poison for life. night.

“It slows you down and hydrates you,” said Doug Bruno, DePaul’s longtime women’s basketball coach. “You can be social, but it’s hard to be too out of control. ”

What a treat it was for Bruno and his team – former assistants, former players, dear family – this month at Clancy’s Tavern & Whiskey House in Knoxville, Tennessee, after Bruno and seven others were inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. . Bruno, who played DePaul for Ray Meyer, coached the Blue Demons for 36 seasons and took them to 25 NCAA Tournaments. He coached girls in high school and the Chicago Hustle — the city’s first women’s professional team — and was a figurehead with USA Basketball on the women’s side. There can be no room without him.

And the quiet beauty of a party like Clancy’s? It was meatless, with no one around who could complain about Title IX or dismiss the women’s game. Bruno has heard such negativity on an ”endless” basis his entire adult life.

“When men make these comments, condescending comments towards female athletes, I just don’t understand them,” he said. ”The true spirit of the competitive athlete transcends gender. It’s the athletic heart and soul of an athlete that makes a great athlete a great athlete. . . .

“I don’t know how hard it is to look around and see that human beings are men and women, not just men.”

Fifty years to the day after the enactment of Title IX, prohibiting gender discrimination in education, including sports, Bruno was back in Chicago reflecting on Hall honor and his career. He kept coming back to the same thing: the women in his life who taught him to be the man he is, and he’s a man who believes women can do anything.

First there was his mother, Drotha Bruno. After high school in the early 1940s, with the war raging, she joined the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve a few years before the Women’s Armed Services Act granted women permanent status in the Marines. Drotha eventually became a kindergarten teacher after the youngest of her eight children – Doug was the first – started school.

“She ran the house like a drill sergeant, like a Marine,” he said, “and it was great to have that kind of strong leadership from a woman. She was a tough woman. You did what you were supposed to do when you were supposed to, or you paid a consequence.”

The Bruno exhibit in Knoxville.

Wade Payne for DePaul Athletics

In seventh grade at St. Joseph’s in Homewood, Sister Raphael Mary showed Bruno how to teach and mentor. This took place in the classroom, with the nun assiduously adhering to a process of instruction, demonstration, rehearsal and critique.

”We performed the fundamental function slowly until it was locked,” Bruno said, ”and then we did it again. ”

As a guard at DePaul in Quigley South, Bruno wanted – what else – the NBA.

“Like all male players,” he said. “But the NBA didn’t want me.”

An English teacher named Dr. Patricia Ewers rounded up Bruno and made him realize that canceling avoidable classes and spending five hours in the gym was not a daily plan that would lead him to anything good.

“She taught me that your brain and your classes are really building blocks of who you can be,” he said. “I guess I’ve been blessed with all this great female leadership without knowing it.”

As an assistant to men’s coach Loyola Gene Sullivan in the 1980s, Bruno naturally thought about stepping up in the men’s game, particularly following the Ramblers’ Sweet 16 run in 1985 with Alfredrick Hughes, Andre Battle, Carl Golston and Andre Moore. But in 1988, his alma mater – where he had coached the women for two seasons a decade earlier – called.

“I didn’t really look like the men were taller than the women,” he said. “I just knew I had to be a head coach.”

All these years later, Bruno is still around – and that raises some tough questions: How much longer will men like him stick around in women’s football? Should they already step aside? What does it say about our sports culture that Bruno basically has a lifetime date, while women such as Becky Hammon, inducted into the Hall class of 2022 – the WNBA Aces coach and a NBA Spurs assistant – still only slowly making inroads into the men’s game?

“These are justifiable questions,” he said. “If men can train both, why can’t women train both? . . . I really hope and believe that one day I will succeed [at DePaul] by a woman.

Bruno is under contract for six more seasons, at the end of which he will be 77 years old. He still lives in Rogers Park — since the days of Loyola — and considers it the best and most diverse neighborhood in the world’s greatest city. Life is Beautiful. A Final Four and a national title before he hung up the whistle would make him even better, but only a little.

For now, he thinks, talking about retirement is like a late-night beer: best kept ice cold. A Hall of a Ride – powered by women who taught him, played for him, trained with him and inspired him – continues.

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