Brungardt leaving strong legacy with Spurs

By Mike Monroe

As the only strength and conditioning coach the Spurs have ever known, Mike Brungardt tried just about everything to help give the players an edge.

He ran them up a steep artificial hill, pushed them through rigorous weight-training drills, gave them boxing gloves and had them spar, stretched muscles with yoga, rehabilitated leg injuries with an underwater treadmill and supervised nutrition.

After announcing his retirement on Friday following 17 years with the team, the 57-year-old Brungardt regretted what he didn’t try.

“I was once a wrestling coach,” he said, “and I always said if I’d had any guts, I’d have had us out there wrestling every day. It teaches balance, quickness and anticipation. But I was always afraid I’d get someone hurt.

“Instead, we had them boxing with (former world champion “Jesse”) James Leija, and I’ve got to give Pop (Spurs coach Gregg Popovich) credit for that. But I still wish we’d tried wrestling.”

When Popovich became the Spurs’ executive vice president and general manager in 1994, Brungardt was one of his first hires.

“He built our strength and conditioning program from the ground up, and (he) remains one of the best in the business,” Popovich said. “He has the respect and admiration of everyone in the organization, from players to coaches to front-office staff.

“I hate to see ‘Brungy’ leave. He is a good friend and a wonderful man.”

Brungardt’s career isn’t completely over. He will pursue opportunities to work with athletes individually in the United States and abroad.

“I’m really going to miss the people in and around the Spurs’ organization,” he said, “but there are tremendous opportunities, both in China and in Europe, and I’ve been intrigued for quite a while.

“I’ll certainly miss working with class athletes … but after 17 seasons, this feels like the right time to take everything I’ve learned from the Spurs, especially from Pop, and move into the next chapter in my life.

“I would like to thank all of them, and the entire Spurs organization, for the many special memories, and wish all of them continued success and happiness.”

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