Chips fall Bruso’s way in retirement
Brian Bruso has always handled transitions in his young, adult life like a breakaway dunk shot. They have been smooth and easy. Now that he has “retired” from basketball, life hasn’t become more difficult.
The 6-foot-7 center, who starred at South Tahoe High during the early 1990s, is making his five-year education at University of San Diego pay off as he embarks on his first job outside of basketball. The 24-year-old Bruso is working as a sales compensation analyst for Oracle Software Company in the Bay Area. His task is to determine credit for Oracle salesman, a critical role for a company that employs 50,000 people.
“I always accepted the fact that basketball would end sooner or later. I was actually eager to start a new career. This oportunity gave me a chance to start graduate school at USF,” Bruso said. “I don’t have any regrets. I’m happy with where I’m working and where I’m living.
“I thank Tahoe fans for always being there and being interested in what I’ve been doing.”
Looking back on his storied basketball career, Bruso should feel very satisfied. He was co-MVP in the Northern Nevada League with Viking teammate Jerod Haase during the 1991-92 season, which culminated with STHS winning the state title in overtime.
“I didn’t realize what I had at the time, now I do. Guys like him come along once in a lifetime and you have to feel fortunate to have coached him,” said 24-year Viking coach Tom Orlich. “A lot of guys his size have his type of ability, but he was one of the toughest kids I’ve ever coached.”
San Diego was one of the few schools to recognize Bruso’s growing talents and he played as a freshman before incurring a stress fracture.
In four additional seasons, including a frustrating junior season where he overcame a slow-healing broken foot, Bruso’s contributions steadily increased. More importantly, he was regular on the West Coast Conference All-Academic Team.
Even though the NBA considered him too small, Bruso had other options to play professionally coming out of college. He was the third overall pick by Kwangju Flamans in the Korean Basketball League draft in 1997. Torn between leaving friends and family in the States, a $70,000 base salary and the chance to play professional lured him far away from home.
If he was homesick, Bruso didn’t show it on the court. He averaged 21 points and 13 rebounds per game and participated in the midseason all-star game.
“It’s tough to play in a league like that. It’s a smaller league and not many people notice what you’re doing, even when you play like I did and put up those kind of numbers,” Bruso said.
Ultimately, it was the financial collapse of Flamans and his restricted lifestyle off the court that pushed him out of Korea.
“Flamans wasn’t sure they were bringing back both Americans, and I hadn’t been in contact with them. If I had an opportunity to go back, I wasn’t sure I was going to take it. The people are very nice over there and so were the living conditions, but I was bored out of my mind off the court,” he said.
“There wasn’t much going on for the six to eight hours (free) time (American teammate) Adonis Jordan and I had to ourselves. We were staying in a smaller town outside of Seoul, so it wasn’t an international city. Our town was Korean, and we couldn’t go out and do things.”
More than anything, Bruso missed his girlfriend Joanna Lee.
“I wasn’t ready to leave her for 10 months. She was able to fly over and visit, but it still was a pretty tough transition for us,” Bruso said.
Prior to this season, Bruso rejected an offer to play in France because the pay was half of his original pro contract for an additonal three months of work.
“The NBA lockout killed players like myself. The jobs that were there last year weren’t there this year. There were a lot more players going for the same jobs,” he said.
If the NBA lockout didn’t cease when it did and replacments would have been called in, Bruso would have thrown his name in the hat.
“I would have jumped at it, It would have been fun,” he said.
But as cozy and secure as Bruso is in his new office job, don’t let him fool you. The gym and the game still have him coming back for more.
“I still play three or four times per week, and it’s not like I’m having withdrawals or anything like that. I try and take it easy on myself by taking a lot of perimeter shots,” Bruso said.
You can even find Bruso working on his post moves and jump shots during lunch. Oracle has a full workout facility for its employees and a company basketball team that Bruso plans to join next season.
And perhaps he’s keeping his game in shape just in case his phone rings in the middle of the night with an offer he simply can’t refuse.
“If it was a good situation that would definitely fit me, I would consider it. But I wouldn’t go out of my way to find one. I’m happy where I am,” he said.
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