After walking the sidelines of the Killeen High School gym for 20 years, Bo Burgess doesn’t get to watch the Kangaroos in person very often these days.
In fact, he generally saves his appearances for the games between Killeen and Harker Heights, now coached by his former star turned assistant turned adversary Celneque Bobbitt.
Yet while Burgess doesn’t get to see the Roos or any of Killeen ISD in person very often, he does follow it from his home in Salado, where he still receives the Killeen Daily Herald primarily to keep up with local sports teams.
On the hardwood, at least, it isn’t hard to see his fingerprints on the district, even nine years after he retired from coaching and teaching.
“I’m very proud of that,” Burgess said. “Two of my ex-players are coaching. They make up half the coaching staff in Killeen ISD.
“Even (Ellison coach) Alberto (Jones, Jr.) was once a Roo,” Burgess said with a laugh.
Bobbitt and current Killeen coach Reggie Huggins — both of who played under Burgess at Killeen — aren’t Burgess’ only disciples nor are they necessarily the most prominent.
Former University of Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie got his first job out of college working under Burgess before taking over as the head coach at Ellison.
Gillispie was replaced by Danny Henderson, now an assistant coach at Boise State, who led Flower Mound Marcus and eventual No. 6 overall pick Marcus Smart to consecutive 5A titles in 2011 and 2012.
But Burgess said Bobbitt and Huggins are special because they represent his legacy in the same town where he spent 20 of his 28 coaching seasons, leading the Roos to 14 playoff appearances and nine district titles.
“It was just glory days back then when you played at Killeen,” Bobbitt said. “Because you knew you were going to win, you knew you were going to win a district championship and you knew you were going to the regionals.
“That was a guarantee.”
In advance of an on-camera interview, Burgess said he began digging up old newspaper clips to share stories from the glory years to which Bobbitt referred.
Yet Burgess himself is an encyclopedia of Killeen basketball, vividly describing stories like the time Joe Hooks, who played with Bobbitt, dunked 13 times in a game at San Angelo Central or the time Temple center T.J. Mack cold cocked Huggins after he’d ripped a rebound away from him, a cheap shot that the referee didn’t even see.
“He sounded like a ton of bricks hitting that floor,” Burgess said with a laugh, “I thought Mack had killed him.”
But what Burgess said he misses most were what came to be known as the “Exs’ game,” an annual spring open gym where former players from as far as 12 years back faced the Roos who were returning for the next season.
Bobbitt said he can still remember walking around with his heart in his throat the entire month leading up to the games.
But what Burgess remembered most was what came after the games.
“They’d play for two or three hours, and then they’d all come up to the office afterwards,” Burgess said. “We would sit and talk, and several of them were really good at emulating me and acting like me.
“We would laugh ‘til we were sick up there.”
Burgess said that type of camaraderie, even with opposing coaches, is what he misses the most about coaching.
The companionship between rivals is one of the many aspects of the district that lives on today and is most evident come playoff time when the Killeen ISD teams can gang up on common opponents as Huggins put it.
“We’re not going to hold back any information from each other,” Huggins said, “especially when it comes to having a chance to beat somebody else.”
The suits that Huggins and Bobbitt wear to every game are also one of Burgess’ trademarks.
And Bobbitt jokingly attributed his fiery sideline demeanor to Burgess also, recalling a game they coached against each other during the last five years of Burgess’ career as evidence.
“I didn’t know who was worse,” Bobbitt said. “I know one day I looked up and he was at center court and I was at the free throw line yelling at the referees.”
So, while Burgess continues to enjoy his semi-retirement — he owns a painting contract company — his protégés continue to carry on his legacy.
And every time he opens the Herald, or makes the trip to see Killeen versus Heights, he can see his fingerprints all over Killeen ISD basketball.
“It’s an honor,” Huggins said of following in his footsteps.
“When I was able to get that opportunity I knew that honor came with huge responsibility. I want to make Coach Burgess proud, all of Killeen High, alumni, fans, everybody proud in the job that we’re doing.
“He was the one that kind of set that bar that all of us want to strive to be like and continue that winning tradition. So, that’s what I’m trying to do.”