— By GREG WEBB
At her letter-of-intent signing ceremony a handful of years ago while a senior at Peaster High School, after inking her commitment to attend and play basketball at Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU), Gabrielle “Gabby” Bruner was quite matter-of-fact about her plans to “major in education and eventually be a basketball coach.”
After four years of study and as many years playing college basketball with the Lady Lions — and with another athletic sidebar on the softball diamond —well, guess what?
The last time Gabby was spending most of her waking hours in a high school, she was attending Peaster, a Class 2A school located less than an hour away from the big sprawl of the D-FW metroplex.
Now that “Coach Bruner” has returned to spend (assuredly even more) time in high school classrooms and gymnasiums, she hangs her coaching and teaching shingle at Class 2A Natalia High School, located less than an hour from big ol’ San Antonio.
While there may be some measure of kismet involved in the geographic parallel, the turn of events resulting in Bruner coaching the Lady Mustangs may have providential connotations, as well.
“I was attending a job fair this past summer and approached the table where the Natalia ISD principal and athletic director were sitting,” Bruner said. “When I introduced myself, it turns out they had already been looking at my resume just the day before.
“We began the interview process and they offered me the position.”
In addition to taking over the Natalia basketball program, Gabby will also be teaching health and phys-ed, as well as a college preparatory class. She will also take on assistant coaching duties for Natalia’s track & field program.
The venture will be Bruner’s first ‘official’ coaching gig, but she had opportunities to sample the art of basketball instruction while attending SAGU ... though not necessarily just local kids.
“I was with a group that went to Bhutan, which is a small Asian country [south of Tibet],” she said. “We conducted basketball clinics at least twice a day, sometimes three times a day, at basically every town in the country.
“It was a very interesting experience and we coached kids of all different ages.”
While still in high school and before heading off to SAGU, Bruner had the opportunity to meet the Dallas Mavericks, courtesy of the sponsor of an award she had won.
Invited into the huddle just before the Mavs took the floor, Gabby was asked if she had any tips for the Dallas cagers. Perhaps experiencing her first coaching assignment, she kept it short and sweet for Dirk Nowitzki and his teammates.
“Play good defense, and just win,” she told the NBA team.
There is little doubt Coach Bruner will be more eloquent as she directs her Lady Mustangs this fall, perhaps with white board in hand to better illustrate schemes and strategies. But the bottom line will be the same.
After all, she’s a coach.