Tahlequah’s basketball season is still at least six months away. Yet, Rickey Bruner Jr. is already putting pressure on himself.
Bruner confirmed to the Tahlequah Daily Press that he has been named Tahlequah’s next boys basketball coach. He takes over for Pat Dotson, who was relieved of his duties in mid April.
“I will put a lot of pressure on myself as the head coach,” Bruner told the Daily Press. “I have a huge responsibility to my school, my players and the community to give 110 percent effort every day.”
Bruner said he’ll welcome the pressure with open arms.
“Pressure is a good thing,” he said, “because pressure makes me fresher.”
Taking over as Tahlequah’s third coach in as many seasons, Bruner leaves his post as athletic director and boys and girls basketball coach at Monroe Demonstration School, which is under the Tulsa Public Schools umbrella.
“He comes highly recommended,” said Lisa Presley, superintendent of Tahlequah Public Schools. “We are excited about bringing him onboard and what he’s going to bring to the basketball program. His energy and youth will bring a new dimension to our basketball program.”
Also included in Bruner’s background were assistant coaching jobs at Tulsa Rogers and Sapulpa High School. He was an assistant at both schools for two years apiece.
“He played for me and coached with me,” former Sapulpa coach James Womack told the Daily Press. “He is very capable, [and] he is a determined young man.”
When Tahlequah opens the 2014-2015 season, it’ll be Bruner’s first season as a varsity head coach. And Womack foresees success in Bruner’s future.
“He will coach like he has something to prove,” Womack said. “That’s a good thing.”
Bruner becomes Tahlequah’s fourth coach since 2009. Wes Hayes and Mike Leafgreen both coached two seasons apiece before Dotson’s club went 6-17 last season.
“It is great being named Tahlequah boys basketball coach,” Bruner said. “I have worked extremely hard for this opportunity and am grateful for the blessing.”
Taking over a basketball club that hasn’t advanced beyond the regional round of the Class 5A playoffs since 2009, Bruner said he welcomes the challenge of competing against other 5A teams.
“There are great student athletes here that want to be successful,” Bruner said. “Also being on the 5A level is very competitive and challenging, and [that] is something I look forward to.”
According to Presley, Tahlequah’s search committee interviewed eight applicants for the position. She said even more than that applied.
“We went through a thorough process of interviewing while searching for applicants and researching the applicants,” Presley said.
Now Bruner is looking toward getting started during the offseason with the Tigers.
“I am excited to come to Tahlequah and get to work and take advantage of the opportunity that I have been given,” Bruner said. “We will start our summer workouts on June 2 and...we will also have open gym on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.
“I’m excited to get in the gym with my guys and get started on our journey to success.”