By Tony Altobelli
Killeen Daily Herald
The Killeen High School gym may forever be a little quieter without the services of longtime boys basketball coach Bo Burgess.
But it may never be as well served.
Burgess, who spent 20 of his 28 seasons as the Roos head coach, officially called it quits on Wednesday, ending a remarkable run as one of the top coaches in Texas high school basketball.
In 899 career games, Burgess finished with a record of 618-281 overall, 461-207 at Killeen. In his 28-years as head coach, Burgess guided his teams to 18 playoff trips and 13 district titles (14 playoff appearances and nine district titles at Killeen).
"And some of those titles were when only one team in each district was allowed to go to the playoffs," Burgess said. "There's mixed emotions, that's for sure. I still enjoy coaching and I feel like I can coach another 15 years, but the burden of coaching and teaching as well as my painting job is just too much. Now, I'm going to spend more time at home, do a little painting, do a lot of golfing."
Burgess has guided six teams to regional playoffs, advancing as far as the semifinals and in addition to molding fine basketball players, he has also provided opportunities for some of today's brightest coaches.
"I'm very fortunate Bo gave me the opportunity at a young age to get into coaching," former assistant and current Texas A&M coach Billy Gillespie said. "He took me in basically off a recommendation of a friend and we've continued to have a very solid relationship to this day.
"He taught me the importance to be not only a good coach on the court, but a good teacher off the court. He does what it takes to be successful and he did a fantastic job of getting the most out of his players.
"He was a great mentor for me, but more importantly, he's a good friend."
Known for his intensity on the court, Burgess is equally as relaxed and easy-going off the court
"I'm not sure where that intensity came from," Burgess said with a laugh. "Yes, I emphasized winning because I feel like more good things can come from winning. I wanted to develop complete players and I knew that winning wasn't going to come without a lot of hard work.
"I spent more time with my players than I did with my own family and they knew that even when I yell at them, my heart is always in the right place and I wanted them to develop not only as players, but as human beings as well."
One of his former players, current Harker Heights coach Celneque Bobbitt has seen more than his share of both sides of Burgess.
"I remember my junior year at the Killeen Classic, Bo got tossed from a game and as a team captain, I stepped up and tried to take his place," Bobbitt recalled. "The official told me that since I wanted to argue too, that I should go join my coach so I got tossed too.
"We spent the rest of the game trying to watch the game through cracks in the door.
"He challenged us every day and our goal as players was to shut him up, so we worked as hard as we could. I remember going on road trips where the bus would be as silent as church, because we knew what we were trying to accomplish. Once we won, the ride home was great. In fact, Bo even came to the back of the bus and laughed and celebrated with us."
Shoemaker coach Rick Kirkpatrick has had some hard battles with Burgess, but he also witnessed first-hand the classy side of the man.
"My first year at Shoemaker, we were a bunch of sophomores and juniors and I had a feeling playing Killeen, we weren't going to fare too well," Kirkpatrick recalled. "He beat us by 30 or so and could have easily been more, but he pulled back the reins and taught me the importance of winning with class.
"After the game, he said to me, 'In a couple of years, the roles will be reversed' and sure enough, a couple years later, I was able to beat his team and I brought up that first game to him and thanked him."
Burgess' last season was a perfect example of getting the most out of his guys. Coming off a 10-20 season, the Roos not only returned to the playoffs, they advanced to the regional quarterfinals, upsetting heavily-favored Lancaster along the way, before losing to eventual state champion Dallas South Oak Cliff.
"The toughest part for me through all of this was telling my players," Burgess said. "There really is not a good time to ever leave because there's always a young group of players you're leaving behind."
So what's next for Killeen High School?
"We'll open the position up and began the process of looking for a new coach," Killeen athletic director Sam Jones said. "With this early announcement, it gives us more time to find the right person for job.
"He's going to be a hard man to replace, that's for sure."
Bobbitt, who has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the job, agrees. "It's a big job for whoever gets it," he said. "You can ask anyone that knows basketball in the state of Texas and they know Bo Burgess. This won't be any stepping-stone type of job. There are coaches around this area who are getting praised for the success they're having, but that's all been done before by Bo. That horse has already been ridden in this area and whoever takes over will have some serious shoes to fill."
Contact Tony Altobelli at firstname.lastname@example.org