G.C. local receives highest honor as strength and conditioning coach
By ANGIE HAFLICH
After 17 years, Garden City native Mike Brungardt retired as the San Antonio Spurs' Strength and Conditioning Coach in June. But before he did, he was in for not just one, but two of the biggest surprises of his life.
He had been mulling over the retirement idea for about a year, and then when he found out that the NBA named him the Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year last May, he said that solidified his decision.
"At that point in time, I was considering retiring and hadn't officially done it yet, so I thought that was a pretty good way to go out," Brungardt said. "I really wasn't expecting that, so it was a pleasant surprise."
He joked that the reason he won it may have just been out of sympathy.
"They felt sorry for me because we went out in the first round this year," he said.
A couple of weeks after winning that award, Brungardt received some other very big news. He was inducted into the USA Strength and Conditioning Coaches Hall of Fame.
"That's the biggest thrill simply because all of the people that are in there," he said. "The guy that actually kind of got me started was the very first guy inducted in there, Alvin Roy, who was the strength coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. So being in the same group with him was quite an honor.
"And the other part of the award that really meant a lot was that I was only the second NBA guy to ever be inducted. The other guy was a guy by the name of Al Vermeil, who was with the Chicago Bulls all those years when Jordan won and also with the 49ers when Joe Montana won. So he's been in both leagues and has won a championship in both leagues."
Brungardt said his father, Al Brungardt, became friends with Roy while stationed in Germany during World War II. Roy then went on to be the strength coach for the Chiefs, and later the Dallas Cowboys.
Brungardt said he remembered his dad taking him to meet Roy.
"When I was in high school in Garden City, we went to Kansas City, and I got to work out with Roy and some of the Chiefs that were up there," he said. "That was my introduction to all that, no question. And it definitely made an impression on me."
A graduate of Garden City High School, and later of Central State University in Oklahoma, Brungardt began his career as a high school wrestling coach and assistant football coach at Grand Island Northwest High School in Nebraska. He then went onto become a highly respected fitness consultant, and in 1994, accepted the position with the Spurs, making him their first strength and conditioning coach.
His influence on the team was very apparent as he helped keep a team that has won four championships in the past 12 years healthy. But rest assured, there have been plenty of memories to last a lifetime.
"Winning the championship in 1999 was definitely special," Brungardt said. "I think that a year later, when Sean Elliott (who was recovering from a kidney transplant) tried to make his comeback and I helped get him back in shape was another big one. I remember when he first came back, he had a dunk probably two or three minutes after he entered the game and the crowd went crazy. It was a real emotional moment."
Despite retiring from the team, Brungardt still plans to remain busy.
"I'm going to do a lot of consulting, and also I'm working on some web site ideas with another group of people, so I'm not going to stop working," he said. "But basically, after 17 years of the grind of the NBA, I was ready to try something different."
Brungardt's mother, Joyce, resides in Garden City with her sisters, June LaFollette and Joan Davis. As a result of getting to meet many of the Spurs players, the three have become huge fans. Such big ones in fact, June and Joyce had a friendly disagreement over when star forward Tim Duncan began his career.
"I don't think they got Duncan until '97, and he still played with David Robinson and when they played together they were called the twin towers," Joyce said.
His Aunt June said Duncan and her son would swap jokes before every game.
"Mike would tell a joke when they were in town, and Tim would tell a joke when they were out of town and sometimes they show it on TV," she said.
Brungardt's two brothers, Kurt and Brett, have collaborated on several books about strength and conditioning, a topic that runs through the family. For Brungardt, his career may have come to a satisfying end after spending years doing something most can only dream of. But his work with the Spurs never changed him as he never forgot about the people who influenced him on his road to the Hall of Fame.
"I'd like to thank all of the coaches and teachers I had when I was in Garden City for helping me along through those years and being a part of my life," he said. "Garden City as a community was an important part of my life. I still have lots of friends and family there."