Cal State Bakersfield gave its newest program a shot of instant credibility by naming Greg Bruce the CSUB's first-ever women's basketball coach, Athletic Director Rudy Carvajal announced. Bruce has coached at NCAA Division II member the University of Northern Colorado for the past three seasons, where he led the Bears to a 20-9 record and an NCAA regional semifinal appearance this season. For his efforts, he was named the North Central Conference coach of the year.
Bruce brings 257 career wins and seven NCAA Division II tournament appearances to a Roadrunner athletics program steeped in victories with a heritage of NCAA postseason success that includes 26 NCAA team championships. It was his legacy of success combined with his commitment to build a quality program from the foundation up that led Carvajal to believe Bruce is the right fit for CSUB.
"We are very fortunate to begin our women's basketball program with Greg Bruce as our first head coach," Carvajal said. "Everywhere he has been his student-athletes have won on the court and graduated in the classroom. More than that, he truly has a passion for building a winning program at Cal State Bakersfield, and I look forward to watching it grow under his leadership."
"I am honored to have been offered the responsibility of starting the women's basketball program at Cal State Bakersfield," Bruce said. "The opportunity to start a program from scratch is both exciting and a tremendous challenge.
"I very much appreciate the confidence Rudy Carvajal has shown in me to get the job done and will do my best to build a program that the community of Bakersfield can be proud of."
Building programs to be proud of seems to be Bruce's specialty. He has coached at every level imaginable, from high school to Division I to women's professional basketball, enjoying success at every stop. After a stint a Thunderbird High School in Phoenix, Ariz., Bruce broke into the college ranks as an assistant coach at Notre Dame. During his two years in South Bend, the Irish improved from 14-14 the year prior to his arrival to 20-8 to 23-8 for a 43-16 (.729) record. They also earned a Women's NIT bid in 1986, the first postseason appearance in school history.
Bruce left Notre Dame in 1986 to take on his first rebuilding project as head coach at NCAA Division I member Portland State University. He took control of a Viking program that had never enjoyed a winning season of NCAA women's basketball. It took him just three years to make PSU a winner, finishing 14-13 in 1988-89. By their last year in Division I, Bruce's Vikings were 19-8 and owners of the second best record among all NCAA Division I independents.
The 1991-92 season saw Portland State reclassify from NCAA Division I to NCAA Division II status. It also saw Portland State make the quantum leap from competitive team to national title contender. The Vikings went 31-3 that season, winning their first Pac West Conference title and finishing third in the nation.
PSU went on to win the next five PWC championships, advancing to the NCAA Sweet 16 twice and to the Elite Eight the other three seasons, including an NCAA Division II Runner-up finish in 1995. In five seasons at the Division II level, Bruce's Vikings went 129-25 (.838) while he earned NCAA District VIII Coach of the Year honors three times and PWC Coach of the Year honors four times. He also coached three All-Americans, including a pair of two-time All-Americans at PSU.
During his tenure at PSU, the Vikings were even more successful in the classroom. Twenty-five of the 26 student-athletes who finished their eligibility under Bruce graduated from Portland State.
After taking one season off to coach the Portland franchise of the fledgling American Basketball League, Bruce returned to the collegiate ranks at Northern Colorado for the 1997-98 season. The Bruce magic was still alive as he led the Bears to the most successful season in school history with an overall record of 21-8 and a national ranking as high as No. 11 in the Division II polls. In his three years at UNC, the Bears made the NCAA tournament field twice, advancing to the regional semifinals in both appearances.
As it was at Portland State, academic excellence went hand-in-hand with athletic success. His 1997-98 team ranked No. 20 in the nation with a cumulative grade point average of 3.26. Two of his players - Missy McVoy and Jennifer Altman - earned GTE Academic All-America(r) honors with perfect 4.00 GPAs. His 1998-99 team combined for a 3.24 GPA.
For all of his success at his previous stops, Bruce knows that it will not be an easy task to teach the Roadrunners how to fly.
"Obviously, it's a big challenge, but I'm not exactly starting from scratch," Bruce said. "With the tradition of CSUB's other sports, the tremendous community support and the beautiful arena (Centennial Garden), many of the pieces already are in place.
"On one hand, this first team is going to start a tradition, and on the other hand it will carry on a very rich tradition of Cal State Bakersfield athletics. It will be my job to make sure that every student-athlete we bring in is a quality person, someone who cares not only about basketball, but also about her education. Those are the student-athletes who will help us build a quality program."
A native of Nantie, Ill., Bruce is a 1972 graduate of Purdue University who went on to complete his master's degree at Arizona State University. He is married (Lyla), and the couple has one son, Kyle.
Public Affairs Offices/Campus News