Throughout his career as a head coach and athletic director, Gerald Brence said he often told people to follow their instincts. After 39 years in Plano ISD, Brence is following his own.
The school’s longtime athletic director announced his retirement on Monday, closing the book on a career in PISD that dates back to 1981. Brence has been PISD’s athletic director since July 2007. His retirement will take effect Dec. 31.
“My instincts were telling me it was time,” Brence said. “I feel really good about it, I’m really proud, everything is really positive and I’m upbeat about it. I’m really proud to have been associated with Plano ISD and I always will be.”
Brence’s 12-year run in the athletic director’s chair was the last of what he called three different careers during his time in PISD. The first began in 1981 upon joining Plano as an English teacher and assistant for the Wildcats’ football and baseball teams — times that Brence said were some of the best of his career.
Coaching under Plano icon Tom Kimbrough during Plano’s state championship runs on the gridiron in 1986 and 1987, Brence was promoted to head football coach in 1992. During 15 years as head coach, Brence posted a 120-70 record and led Plano to the postseason 11 times, including five trips to the state quarterfinals and beyond, highlighted by a Class 5A Division I state title in 1994.
In 2007, Brence was named PISD’s fourth-ever athletic director and even began his tenure juggling the AD role with one more season as a head coach, guiding Plano to the state semifinals.
“All three stages were different, but in the end, they all felt the same with the gratification it all gave me. I enjoyed the whole thing,” Brence said.
Along the way, it was the relationships that he built, that made Monday’s decision that much tougher.
“The hardest part is the people you’re used to seeing every day and being around every day and having that come to an end,” Brence said. “I’ll still be around, for sure. But that’s the hard part. I loved working with all the coaches.”
That sentiment was reciprocated by one of Brence’s closest colleagues.
“[Brence] was such a great mentor and such a student of the game," said Jaydon McCullough, Plano head football coach. "He's a tireless worker who's very well organized and just a great leader. I'm going to miss him, but at the same time I'm excited for him for his future and getting to start retirement."
McCullough reflected on the early days in his career at Ford Middle School in Allen when he worked with Brence’s wife, Liz, and how that led to the opportunity later afforded to him by Brence in 1993 where McCullough was hired by PISD. He spent more than a decade on Brence’s staff prior to being named his successor at head coach in 2008.
“He’s one of the most caring, loving and forgiving people I know,” McCullough said. “He’s very compassionate, loyal and really tries to see the best in people. He’s a high-character person and one of the most intelligent guys that I’ve been around.”
During Brence’s tenure as athletic director, PISD didn’t lack in notable moments — capturing state championships in baseball (Plano West, 2008), boys basketball (West, 2015), boys golf (West, 2008 and 2016), boys soccer (Plano, 2009), girls basketball (Plano, 2017), girls soccer (West, 2011 and 2012) and team tennis (West, 2016). The school district could soon add volleyball to that list, with West playing in the Class 6A state semifinals on Friday.
Brence said that considerations of retirement had been on his mind over the past year, and gave thought to it over the summer, but noted the timing wasn’t right and preferred to wait until football season had concluded.
No doubt, Brence wishes his final year overseeing PISD on the gridiron had yielded better results, with the school district missing the playoffs in football for the first time since 1989. Overall, PISD posted just a 7-23 record in varsity action.
“It was a very tough year and I take those losses really hard,” Brence said. “I take losses in all sports hard, but the ball has bounced our way many, many times over the years. When it doesn’t, you can’t get too upset about it because we’ve had our share of success.”
Brence’s retirement will take effect Dec. 31, during which he’ll transition to a new phase after accepting a job with EliteX 360, a sports injury prevention company. Brence will also put the finishing touches on his third book, which he hopes to release around Christmas.
“I’m very excited about it. I’m going to try to help out in the epidemic of sports injuries. When that came along, that kind of set the wheels in motion because I needed something to do,” Brence said. “I still consider myself a young guy, even though I just turned 60. I still feel like I have a lot to do.”