Bruce Webster, the long-time and legendary men’s basketball coach at the University of Bridgeport and a Gold Key recipient in 2005, has died. He passed away on Wednesday, April 26, 2017.
Webster, who came to Bridgeport after working as an assistant coach at Rutgers University, served as the Purple Knights’ head men’s basketball coach for 34 seasons, from the 1965-66 campaign through the 1998-99 season. During his tenure, his teams posted 549 wins, making him the school’s all-time leader in career victories.
Under his direction, the Purple Knights made a total of 12 NCAA tournament appearances (1968, 1972, 1973, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1985, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992), won five NCAA regional titles (1976, 1979, 1990, 1991, 1992) and twice reached the NCAA Division II national championship game in 1991 and 1992.
“Our current athletic program is built on the success of those who were here before us like Coach Webster,” said Anthony Vitti, the athletic director at the University of Bridgeport. “He put a winning men’s basketball program together and represented the University of Bridgeport with dignity and class throughout his storied career. He was and will always be a UB legend.”
His family echoed Vitti’s sentiments saying, “Coaching at the University of Bridgeport was not Dad’s job; it was his life. His connection to UB is an extension of our father and of our family.”
A 1959 graduate of Rutgers University, where he played both basketball and football, Webster brought international notoriety to UB during the 1984-85 season when he recruited a 7-foot, 7-inch native of the Sudan, Manute Bol, to come and play for the Purple Knights. During that season, the Purple Knights were a must-see and the talk of the entire college basketball community, as Bol, prior to his career in the NBA, helped Bridgeport post a 26-6 record and reach the NCAA Northeast Regional finals.
In recognition of Webster’s tremendous contributions to the basketball program, the University named the playing court in Hubbell Gymnasium in his honor in February 2005.
“The name Bruce Webster is synonymous with excellence on the basketball court,” said Mike Ruane, the current men’s basketball coach at Bridgeport. “Our program aspires to the heights his teams reached, especially from 1989-92 when they appeared in the Division II finals twice. When you think of UB basketball, you think of Bruce Webster. It’s WAS a privilege to get to know him and be inspired by his example. Prayers to his family and friends from the Purple Knights’ men’s basketball family.”
In 1976, 1979, and 1992, Webster was named the Northeast District Coach of the Year, one of only two coaches to win the award three times. In 1992, he was cited as the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Division II Coach of the Year, and he also won a silver medal as an assistant to Mike Jarvis at the 1991 United States Olympic Festival.
He has been inducted into several Hall of Fames including the New England Basketball Hall of Fame (2003), the University of Bridgeport Athletics Hall of Fame (2006) and the Fairfield County Sports Hall of Fame (2007).