Quick, who was the first team to win 20 games this season? Who is the only Big East team to defeat Stanford this season? Who is undefeated and tied for first place in the Big East conference?
Only one team is the answer to all three of these questions, and it’s not Connecticut, but their opponent on Saturday afternoon, Doug Bruno’s DePaul Blue Demons. After starting the season unranked in the national polls, DePaul has steadily climbed to their current spot, #9 in the AP and #13 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches’ Poll.
Doug Bruno is in his 25th year as head coach at DePaul. He’s had an amazing career, and in particular an amazing 2010 and 2011. He has won his 500th game, won the aforementioned game vs. Stanford denying Tara VanDerveer her 900th win, and was assistant to Geno Auriemma on the Gold medal winning USA Senior National team. Finally, and perhaps most impressive, Coach Bruno was honored for his commitment to excellence at DePaul by having the court at McGrath Arena named the "Doug Bruno Court."
I had the good fortune to speak to one of the most engaging coaches in the country for the Dishin & Swishin show, as the Big East season was just beginning.
What makes Doug Bruno so interesting is the passion for the women’s game he exudes at all times; the fact that he promotes and supports women’s basketball to such a high degree. A former president of the WBCA, Bruno is the chairman of the WBCA/State Farm All-American committee while he is also the East Regional representative for the NCAA Division I Tournament selection, represents District I on the WBCA Ethics Committee and is also on the Wade Trophy committee. It would be easy with that resume to be arrogant about his accomplishments, but Bruno is as down to earth as there is. I asked him about having the court named for him, and how that jives with his apparent lack of ego.
As I mentioned before, Bruno was assistant to his longtime friend Geno Auriemma and helped coach the USA Senior National team to a Gold medal at the World Championships this past summer. While it is not guaranteed, he would love to coach again in the 2012 Olympics, and talked about his experience and what he learned from working with those players and coaches.
A good part of the success of this year’s DePaul team can be attributed to the experience this team has. They only play one freshman, and five seniors, including six year senior Deirdre Naughton. They protect the ball, and move it around; they sit 2nd in the Big East in Assist/Turnover ratio. There is no substitute for having been through the rigors of the Big East and the NCAA tournament previously, and Coach Bruno discussed how important it is to be so experienced this year.
While the Blue Demons have four people scoring in double figures, the two obvious leaders of the team are leading scorer and pre-season All Conference selection Keisha Hampton, and senior caption and pre-season All Conference Honorable mention selection point guard Sam Quigley. Hampton currently is 7th in the Big East in scoring, Quigley is 7th in assists and assist/turnover ratio. Coach Bruno discussed his two stars (and the Quigley family in general).
Ever the ambassador of the game, and promoter of women’s basketball, Coach Bruno also talked in our interview about the success of Connecticut, the winning streak (that ended at Stanford not long after we talked), and his strong feelings about gender bias in the reporting of the UConn streak compared to the UCLA streak.
So what will we see tomorrow when DePaul goes into Gampel Pavilion, where UConn is so successful? When Coach Bruno takes on his good friend Coach Auriemma? When Hampton goes against Maya Moore? If DePaul plays the way that it did against Stanford, it could be a really exciting game.
Whatever the outcome, it will have two coaching legends, two of the very best at what they do, on the sideline, and that is always terrific to watch!