"When you represent the United States of America, you have to win gold," said DePaul head coach and Olympic assistant coach Doug Bruno at a recent DePaul Coaches' Caravan event. "There is no time to have a bump along the road."
But before the opportunity for gold at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, there was much panning and mining for Bruno.
Bruno first became associated with the USA women's basketball team in 2006, when he was head coach of the USA U18 FIBA Americas Championship team. Under his tutelage, the team tallied a 4-0 record in Colorado Springs, capturing the gold medal, and qualifying the USA for the FIBA U19 World Championship.
In 2007 he helped the USA Basketball U19 World Championship Team to a 9-0 record and the gold medal at the 2007 FIBA U19 World Championship in Slovakia. The USA beat its opponents by an average of 34.6 points per game during that run.
For his efforts in 2006 and 2007 Bruno was named co-recipient of the USA Basketball Developments National Coach of the Year, thereby becoming the first two-time winner of the award.
In 2010, as an assistant coach for the USA World Championship Team, Bruno helped the USA to a 9-0 record, the gold medal, and a berth to play in London. In all, Bruno has assisted the USA National Team to a 19-3 record and a World Championship gold medal.
And then came London.
The USA won its fifth consecutive gold medal in women's basketball with an 86-50 win over France. The USA has won 41 straight Olympic basketball games since winning the bronze medal in 1992.
And even with the perennial talent of Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird, and Tamika Catchings on this year's roster, all gold medal winners for the third time, there was still the difficulty of getting great talent to play at a great level in a short amount of time.
The solution to that problem was experience plus experience.
Olympic head coach Geno Auriemma had Bruno, Atlanta Dream head coach Marynell Meadors, and Washington Mystics assistant coach and ex-Olympian Jennifer Gillom as his assistants. All four had worked together at the World Championship.
"Geno [Auriemma] does a great job," said Bruno. "He is an excellent coach. The players had played together before, but still it is difficult and it is a lot harder than people realize."
"Player like Taurasi and Bird, those are master point guards and master managers of games. That was huge. And then you still have unbelievable veteran talent like Tamika Catchings. Players like those three were unquestionably the keys."
"As soon as the [gold medal] happened, there was this euphoric feeling of happiness for those women, who achieved something that is very, very hard to do," Bruno said. "And then there is this almost simultaneous feeling of relief because we continued the streak and we passed the torch of the streak to the next Olympic coaching staff."
And after disposing of France, the only thing that remained for the team to do in London was to attend the 45-minute medal presentation ceremony. And for Bruno, that was a chance for him to revel in the present and to remember the past.
"As the ceremony started, I was thinking about all the people at DePaul. All the players who played at DePaul put me in the position to be able win a gold medal. You don't become an Olympic coach by yourself. It starts with Jean [Lenti-Ponsetto] and her teams back in the 1970's."
"They say your life passes in front of you when you die," recalled Bruno. "It was like my DePaul life passed in front of me. I was also thinking about Ray Meyer. I don't get to go to DePaul without Coach [Ray] Meyer. I was thinking about [assistant coach Frank] McGrath. I was thinking about Coach [Gene] Sullivan, who gave me my collegiate start at Loyola. Those four people are the ones most responsible for me along the way and who were professional mentors. And then all the players, every single one of them."
Bruno likely could not have foreseen in 1973 when he started his coaching career that eventually one former player, three coaches, and all the players he has coached during his 26 years at DePaul would narrow his mission to one where London was calling. Or that gold would answer the call.
Bruno, London, and Gold
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