Soroco teachers, coaches Bruner and Johnson retiring after decades with the Rams
This spring will mark the end of an era for Soroco High School athletics. Coaches Andy Johnson and David Bruner, who have headed the track and field, and girls basketball teams together for a decade and been in the school district for a combined 46 years, are retiring.
Johnson has worn about every athletic-related hat possible for the Rams, as boys basketball coach, girls basketball coach, track and field coach, and athletic director, as well as being a referee for basketball and football.
Bruner has been in Oak Creek for 16 years, coaching football for seven, basketball for 14 and track for all 16 years. He also teaches physical education, health and wood shop.
The pair have worked together courtside for 10 years and headed the track team for 12, becoming a powerful coaching duo that has seen immense success in both sports.
“We’re kind of the perfect match,” said Johnson. “It seems like we’re on the same page on a lot of things without either one convincing the other this is what needs to happen.”
Johnson is reaching the end of his 30th year of teaching, all of which he spent at Soroco Middle School teaching math. After graduating from the University of Wyoming, he applied to three jobs. Soroco was his first interview and hours later, he got an offer and accepted.
He’s threatened to retire many times in the past, but since his license is expiring this year, he’s finally doing it.
“He’s been saying he’s going to retire since I graduated high school in 2015,” said Johnson’s daughter, Hayley. “So, when he told me this year that it was his last year I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll see it when I believe it.’”
Johnson has officiated football since 2001, coached boys basketball for a while, then became the athletic director of both the high school and middle school for 10 years. He joined the track staff about 12 years ago and joined Bruner as basketball assistant coach a decade ago.
Johnson will leave more than a job listing when he concludes his career.
“It’s a huge hole,” said former Soroco student and teacher Jake Eskridge. “You can’t find math teachers now anyway and to lose someone who cares that much … For someone to stay at Soroco, to stay that long and know you’re not getting paid as much as other districts, it’s a testament to him. That’s what he called home. That’s where he wanted to be.”
Johnson was Eskridge’s seventh-grade teacher and coach through high school. Eskridge got a teaching degree and returned to Soroco to teach and coach alongside Johnson. When Johnson was AD, he was Eskridge’s boss for a few years as well before Eskridge took a job elsewhere.
Still, Eskridge considers Johnson one of his closest friends.
With a dozen years coaching together, Johnson and Bruner have also become incredibly close, traveling together and donning matching outfits on many occasions.
“It takes special people to be able to coach together and be in the heat of the situation and be able to listen to each other,” Bruner said.
Bruner retiring after 28 years of teaching and 16 in Oak Creek. Working together, he and Johnson helped 64 Rams medal at the state track championships and 14 earn titles. Additionally, 16 of the 20 girls records and nine of the 19 boys records have been broken since Bruner started coaching.
Furthermore, Bruner has coached 13 teams to a winning record over his 14 years of coaching basketball, 10 of which were with Johnson.
“He’s a great coach and he deserves a lot of attention,” Bruner said. “A lot of the success we’ve had, a lot of it is due to him. He’s been a good friend.”
Bruner’s youngest of three daughters is graduating from Soroco this year, so between that and wanting to explore other things, he decided it was time to retire. He’ll keep working at a nearby ranch but looks forward to traveling with his wife Kim and watching their daughters compete in basketball and track at Arizona Christian University.
“I couldn’t have done any of this without Kim,” Bruner said. “She’s very supportive. She’s coached a lot of years too. She’s driven a lot of miles. It’s time for her to be able to slow down and do some other things we’ve wanted to do in our life.”
David said Kim played a big role in the girls basketball team’s success as well, starting the peewee program when they first came to Oak Creek in the 2000s, making a foundation for the teams that have pushed deep into the playoffs since then.
David said he couldn’t possibly pick a favorite team or accolade from the past 16 years, but track will always hold a special place in his heart. He said he and Kim will likely become track officials or stay involved in the sport one way or another.
Both he and Johnson said they will miss the relationships formed with students and athletes, and the pride they feel watching them succeed, but Johnson said he will miss game days the most.
“It’s a different atmosphere that we kind of thrive off of and our kids thrive off of,” he said. “I’ll definitely miss that.”
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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