Inside DePaul’s McGrath-Phillips Arena, banners line the white brick walls and swing subtly from the rafters as the air pumps through the gym. Written across most are the words “Women’s Basketball.”
Beneath the banners, athletes practice in preparation for earning the next one. And echoing around them is the distinct, raspy voice of the man who helped lead the program to these accomplishments.
Doug Bruno doesn’t scream at his players; his voice doesn’t rise past a certain level. But if he’s not being heard, he barks as loudly as his voice will allow.
On this particularly snowy afternoon, as the Blue Demons fight to make 100 three-pointers in four minutes, Bruno’s voice is even but passionate. He’s barely audible over the sound of his players counting each ball that sinks through the net.
“You can do this!” he repeats until the 100th three goes in at the buzzer.
In January, for the second time in his 36-year career, Bruno was named one of 12 finalists for the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. The class of 2022 will be announced Feb. 14 during the Maryland-Iowa game on ESPN2.
Bruno began his days at DePaul as a player. Motivated by being cut from his high school basketball team as a sophomore, he worked hours a day just to be average, he said. After graduating from DePaul, he took a job as assistant athletic director and eventually became the women’s basketball coach. The school didn’t even have scholarships for women athletes at the time.
His early memories as a coach include the team driving to games in their cars, packing multiple players into hotel rooms and eating fast food for the team meal. More than three decades after those early days of instability, he has made the Blue Demons one of the most consistent women’s programs in the country: 24 NCAA Tournaments, four Sweet 16s, six Big East regular-season titles and five conference tournament titles.
“What attracted me to DePaul wasn’t the success in the program but the consistency,” senior guard Sonya Morris said. “Up until last year, NCAA Tournaments and top-25 teams was the standard. That’s hard to maintain.”
In fact, 2021 was the first time Bruno’s Blue Demons missed the NCAA Tournament in 19 years. His players describe the feeling as more than disappointment — it was heartbreak. This year, they’re unranked with an 18-5 overall record. Three of their five losses came against ranked opponents.
Throughout his career, Bruno has fielded offers to coach in the WNBA and lead other NCAA programs, but his love for Chicago has always kept him at DePaul.
Growing up, he used to hitchhike north from 185th and Western, where he lived, to Quigley South High School at 79th and Western. He’d get out of practice around 7 p.m. and make the same trip back, stopping at Janson’s Drive-In along the way.
His memories all over the city are what keep him rooted, waking up every day with the hunger to accomplish more at DePaul.
“You don’t do this to be celebrated,” he said. “Any celebration is a byproduct of great administration, great assistant coaches and great players.”