Bruce, 48, left his second spell in charge of the Latics in the summer.
But it was his first short stint at the helm in 2001 that kept him in football after he had become disillusioned following bitter experiences managing Sheffield United and Huddersfield.
Having been axed by the Terriers nine years ago, the Geordie helped as a labourer during work to renovate his home.
And he admitted: "I didn't want to go on as a manager.
"I questioned myself but then I got the call from Wigan and thought why not?
"That was a vital time as I had got to a point where I didn't know if being a boss was for me. My house was getting done up and I became a labourer with the boys who were doing it up. That kept me sane.
"I used to go and get the pie and chips and make the tea. It saved £50-a-day labourer fees!
"It was the first time I thought I'd walk away from football, so Wigan did me a favour.
"I've got a lot of time for Dave Whelan. He has a refreshing attitude."