Sue Dillon: Overseeing & Understanding

CHICAGO- Sue Dillon and current DePaul women’s basketball coach Doug Bruno did not know each other when they both attended DePaul University in the early 1970’s. But even if they had, neither one probably could have imagined how things would turn out 23 years later.

Dillon retired this past week after serving as the administrative assistant to Bruno for 18 years, a journey that started in 1996 with scarce office supplies and mishandled phone calls, and ended as someone who was as much of the team as Bruno, his staff, and his players.

“The whole team starts with the chemistry of your staff, and the chemistry of this staff starts with the face of the office,” said Bruno at a recent retirement ceremony for Dillon. “And not only was Sue efficient, hardworking, and her loyalty unwavering, she was also a mother to our players. Every bit of success we have had with our program since Sue joined, she has been the reason for that success.”

But as with any maiden voyage- Dillon was the first person to hold this position for Bruno- it was one step at a time.

Dillon recalls during her first month on the job, when the department did not have enough money for stationery, she used scrap paper for notepaper. The department was eventually able to purchase some stationery, which came in a big box that Dillon placed on the floor where she worked. The overnight janitorial workers then threw the box out.

She also recalls the time Bruno was with the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association and he had a phone call at 9:00. “He kept asking me what time was the call and I said ‘9:00, it’s okay.’ He asked again ‘what time is my phone call?’ and I told him 9:00. He said ‘it is not, it is Eastern Standard Time.’”

“After that first month, I figured that I had been through that and I was still working, and 18 years later here I am,” said Dillon.

Jean Lenti-Ponsetto, the current DePaul athletic director and who played women’s basketball under Bruno, might be in the best position to summarize what Dillon dealt with, and handled, for 18 years.

“There is a staff in women’s basketball, starting with the head guy that runs around with his hair on fire 24/7. Sue Dillon has been an absolute amazing staff member in our department, with what she has had to do to manage the chaos in that office.”

But that chaos is part of a larger fractal, one that goes beyond discarded stationery and missed phone calls.

“I was so grateful that I got the opportunity to work with Doug all these years,” Dillon said. “I don’t think there is a more honest person that I know.”

Dillon’s job started out with paper, but was eventually transformed into handling the charge of technology.

“In helping keep his schedule, technology helps,” said Dillon. “But [Bruno’s] schedule is so complicated. He never has down time. You almost need double technology for him. My responsibilities have increased with the technology including texting and e-mails of the girls. When I first started all we could do was write, so that is all that the girls would get.”

The other major role that Dillon played was as a mother to the players, roughly 250 total of them over 18 years. Dillon’s oldest daughter was a senior in high school when Dillon was hired for the job, so “it was was a very easy role [in embracing the players], and I could easily relate to it because my daughter was their age.”

And like any mother, she wanted what was best for her children.

“I enjoyed the girls. I always felt connected to them, and I always wanted them all to play [even with game minute limitations]. I have kids [of my own] who played high school sports, and not everybody gets to play. But you want them all to play.”

The thread that connects Dillon to DePaul commenced with her father taking her to DePaul men’s games at Alumni Hall, continued with her education at DePaul, and culminated with her assisting both Bruno and his players. And that thread was transformed into actual fabric when the university presented her at the ceremony with a framed No. 18 DePaul basketball jersey with her name on the back of it.

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