Brooklyn Boro

George Bruns is proof — coaches are born — not made

November 22, 2021 Andy Furman
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The school at 62 Park Place closed in 1969.

But it produced one hard-nosed basketball player who never took no for an answer.

The school – St. Augustine Diocesan High School.

The player is George Bruns – a point guard on that Lancers team.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

St. Augustine has made way for a Public Middle School, and later Bishop Loughlin High School. 

George Bruns has made himself a Hall of Fame career – the hard way.

“I started playing at Foster Park,” he told the Eagle. “It was sort of central place in the neighborhood. Kids from Empire Blvd. came to play, and we always got a game there.”

Basketball almost ended for Bruns when he graduated St. Augustine.
“I got an Academic Grant, and was a walk-on at Manhattan College,” he said. “I played for Ken Norton.”

Why Manhattan?

“That answer is easy,” Bruns said, “I didn’t hear from anyone else.”

The kid from East 19th Street and Avenue U – and a member of St. Edmund’s Parish – was more than just a walk-on for the Jaspers.

He moved into a starting role, and, as a senior made the 1966 All-Metropolitan Team.

And again, basketball provided a roadblock for Bruns’ career path.

“I tried out for a team in the old Eastern League,” he said. “They played mostly on weekends – and I was cut.”

Down – but never out.

He taught and coached – basketball and baseball – at Monsignor McClancy Memorial High School in East Elmhurst, Queens. His 1971 Crusaders team went to the New York CHSAA City Championship, only to lose to LaSalle Academy in the City Finals played at Fordham’s Rose Hill gymnasium.

But the dream of playing at the next level never died. 

“I got a shot with the Eastern League team in Hartford for the 1969-70 season,” he said, “the Hartford Bics. I could run a team, and saw the mismatches.”

He played that season in Hartford – and the next three for the Allentown Jets – while still commuting from Long Island to McClancy.

Then the break came – in the form of backcourt injuries to the ABA’s New York Nets.

Lou Carnesecca, the Hall of Fame former St. John’s coach was running the Nets and offered Bruns a contract.

“I remember I only played about six or seven minutes my first game, but I scored 15 points in 30 minutes my next game.”

That was an upset win over the powerful Kentucky Colonels in Louisville’s Freedom Hall, featuring future Hall of Famers, Artis Gilmore and Dan Issel.

Bruns had made it – albeit 13 games – and he averaged 6.6 points and 2.8 assists in 18.2 minutes in those ballgames.

Coaching basketball – not playing – was his calling.

The 76-year-old Bruns enters his 19th season as Manhasset High School basketball coach. In 2019 he led his team to win the Nassau County Championship title. They went on to become the Long Island champions be defeating Suffolk’s Wyandanch High School.

Manhasset advanced to the State Championships in Binghamton – a team first since 1986.

“I guess they still think I know what I’m doing,” Bruns said, when asked how he felt coaching kids some 60 years his junior.

Bruns knows. So do his opponents.

He received Coach of the Year honors for leading his team to the 2010-11 County Championship and was awarded Conference Coach of the Year four of his 19 years at Manhasset.

For 50 years Bruns served as a Professor at Nassau Community College in the Math Department – and did we mention he served as Head Women’s Coach at Nassau eight years.

He retired last September as a Professor.

A Hall of Fame member at Manhattan College – not bad for a walk-on – a five-time All-Star and Player Coach in the CBA (Continental Basketball Association) and Coach of the Year at McClancy High School.

It wouldn’t be official if we didn’t add – he was named Coach of the Year twice.

Perhaps coaches are born – not made.

George Bruns is living proof.

Andy Furman is a Fox Sports Radio national talk show host. Previously, he was a scholastic sports columnist for the Brooklyn Eagle. He may be reached at: [email protected].

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