SAN ANTONIO – Synonymous with San Antonio high school basketball, Charlie Boggess relishes his memories of a childhood spent at gyms across the city in the 1950s.
The oldest son of Charles “Chuck” Boggess, one of San Antonio’s top high school boys basketball coaches at Harlandale in those days, Boggess was a fixture at Indians games and workouts before he even started school.
“I passed out the towels to the Indians on the bench,” Boggess said. “I was always in the gym.”
Charles N. Boggess Jr. went on to become a local basketball legend himself, winning more games than any other high school coach in San Antonio history. He went 915-358 in 33 seasons at Alamo Heights and 4½ at Antonian after he left the Mules in the spring of 2011.
Boggess resigned at Antonian in December 2015, but returned to coaching last season at Central Catholic as an assistant under Bruce McConaghy.
Now 68 years old, Boggess reached a milestone in his career last month when he was inducted into the Texas High School Basketball of Fame.
A large gathering of former players, coaches, friends and Alamo Heights ISD administrators gathered at a downtown hotel on May 20 to see Boggess join former San Antonio coaches Weldon Beard, Wayne Dickey, Nemo Herrera, Jimmy Littleton, Denny Smith and Mike Wacker in the state Hall. Boggess played basketball at now-closed La Salle High School under Beard in the mid-1960s.
Hall of Fame inductees are selected by a committee of the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches.
“It was really nice,” Boggess said of his induction. “It’s the highest compliment that you can get from your peers. It’s not a local thing. This is statewide, which tells we were doing something right at Alamo Heights and people knew about us around the state. There was a bunch of former players there, and I heard from a lot of players who couldn’t come."
Former Heights principal, Barney Newton, who now lives in New Mexico, was at the induction banquet. Current principal Cordell Jones and Frank Alfaro, an assistant superintendent with the Alamo Heights ISD, also attended.
“It was like a reunion,” said Bob Briseno, a close friend of Boggess who worked with his Alamo Heights and Antonian teams in the summers as an AAU coach for more than 20 years.
Boggess consistently churned out winning teams at Heights that reflected their coach’s unwavering commitment to fundamentals. Driven by the four-letter code that defined Boggess’ program – MT-XE – the Mules were characteristically disciplined and always prepared. MT-XE is Alamo Heights shorthand for Mental Toughness-Extra Effort.
“Charlie figured out a system that best suited the type of kids he had at Alamo Heights,” said Dickey, who coached against Boggess during his long career at Sam Houston. “He believed in the system and he got his kids to believe in the system. I’ve always said the best teaching is repetition.
“In any program, if you can get your kids as far down as the sixth grade to start learning your terminology, what you expect and what you demand out of players, you’re going to be more successful. I think Charlie did a great job of doing that, putting a system in and letting everybody know this is what Heights basketball is like and this is how it’s going to be.”
Smith was hired as a teacher and coach at Terrell Wells Middle School in 1964 by Chuck Boggess, then the Harlandale ISD’s athletic director. Smith went on to a long career as boys basketball coach at McCollum, where the gym is named after him. He coached Boggess’ two younger brothers, John and Geoff, at McCollum and coached against Charlie when he was at Heights.
“There was a lot of pride in the program at Heights,” Smith said. “Charlie got the 15th guy on the bench believing he was a big part of the team. That’s what it takes. People have got to believe in what you’re doing. You’ve got to sell it to your kids and Charlie is a heck of a salesman. He could have made a good living as a salesman if he’d wanted to.
“Charlie was very consistent, very dedicated and very intense in his coaching. He’s just a basketball guru. He studies the game constantly.”
Boggess was 785-309 in his 33 seasons at Heights and led the Mules to the state tournament twice. He was 130-49 at Antonian before resigning six days before Christmas in 2015.
Antonian had its best run in school history under Boggess, averaging 28 wins a year and winning three district titles in four seasons. The Apaches were 16-7 when he stepped down. In the end, Boggess said he simply thought it was time to quit coaching.
Reflecting on his career now, Boggess recalled he wasn’t thinking much past the next day when he got his first head-coaching job at Heights in 1978. Boggess coached one year at Harlandale and six at Churchill before succeeding Jim Keener as boys basketball coach at Heights, then mired in a streak of five losing seasons.
His first three teams finished 13-19, 12-20 and 15-17, but the Mules didn’t have a losing season after that, going 745-252 and winning at least 20 games in 29 of Boggess’ last 30 seasons.
Heights broke an eight-year string of losing seasons with a 23-9 finish in 1982, starting a streak of 25 seasons in which the Mules reached the 20-victory mark. The impressive run ended with a 16-16 finish in 2007, but Heights won at least 20 games in each of their last four seasons under Boggess.
“His teams were extremely consistent and they didn’t make a whole lot of mistakes,” said Bernal, who coached against Boggess during his long career at Lanier. “He always had those guys playing well together, especially as the year went on and they got into district play. I think that was a trademark of Coach Boggess’ teams.”
Bernal also touched on Boggess’ knack for making each player believe he could contribute to the team.
“If a kid wasn’t a great shooter or a great ballhandler or whatever, there were other ways he could help his team, and Charlie did a good job of making sure the kids understood what they could do to help the team be successful.”
A longtime basketball official, Briseno coached Boggess’ Heights teams for 18 years as an AAU coach. He helped Boggess another four summers when Boggess continued his career at Antonian.
“Consistency is what Charlie strived for, and it was all fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals,” Briseno said. “He made everybody accountable and he made everyone feel like they were part of it and it couldn’t be done without them.”
Current Heights coach Andrew Brewer has a unique perspective on Boggess’ passion for basketball. He played for Boggess and returned to Heights as an assistant coach before succeeding him.
“It was really easy in his mind,” Brewer said. “There was a right way to do things and a wrong way to do things. He was extraordinarily consistent, and he just pushed and pushed and pushed. He wouldn’t stop. In that regard, I was almost amazed by his ability to drive kids. There is an art to coaching kids today.
“They need structure. They embrace structure. He had this way of pushing kids to be so much better than they ever thought they could be. Once you get it going, it’s easier to maintain. Like the great teams that he had, they were going to the Muledome when they were in diapers. They grew up wanting to be Heights basketball players.”
Brewer, a 1994 Heights graduate, was the second former Mules player (David Peavy was the first) to serve as an assistant to Boggess. Brewer recalled the valuable lessons he learned when Heights finished .500 in his first season (2006-07) on Boggess’ staff.
“We were struggling and he was like, ‘Let’s try this to fix it, let’s try this to fix what’s going on,’” Brewer said. “I was just beat down because we were losing and I said, ‘Coach, what if we’re just not very good?’ Then he goes, ‘If we finish the season and we look back and see we weren’t very good, that’s OK. But right now, during the middle of the season, we’re going to try to fix it.’
“There was never a point in any year where he thought, man, this group is not very good, or this group may not win the district championship. It was never that. When you’re in the middle of the fight, he’s a tenacious fighter. That’s one of the things that I always respected. You don’t stay in that job for 33 years if you aren’t a fighter.”
In addition to heading the boys basketball program at Heights, Boggess taught three freshman English classes. True to his character, he was as demanding in the classroom as he is on the court.
“You couldn’t stay at Alamo Heights if you didn’t do a good job in the classroom,” Boggess said. “I really enjoyed teaching. I never really wanted to do straight P.E. all day. Then you’re in the gym all day, and you’re not part of the faculty and around the student body. I liked being in the classroom, and then going to the gym. It was like two separate parts to the day for me.”
As comfortable as Boggess was in a classroom setting, the Mule Dome, a.k.a. the Alamo Heights gym, was his sanctuary and home away from home.
“For me, it was very special,” Boggess said. “It was a place where I felt that I belonged. Sometimes I’d be the last one out of the gym, turning off the lights and walking across the floor, and I’d have all these memories of different games, different guys. You know, not just wins but the heartbreakers, the whole kaleidoscope of feelings. It just made me feel at home.”
All five of Cindy and Charlie Boggess’ children – Jennifer, Jon, Joey, Holly and Clay – are Alamo Heights graduates. Clay, a 2011 graduate, was a senior guard on his father’s last Mules team.
“I’m proud of all five of my kids,” Boggess said. “They’re all successful.”
Forty-six years after starting his career at Harlandale, Boggess remains passionate about basketball and working with high school kids.
“In all the years I’ve coached, I could never really say, ‘That guy right there is going to be really, really special,’” Boggess said. “It happened sometimes. But more than likely, the guy in the middle of the pack, or maybe some guy who was on the B team that turned out to make the most strides, or the kid who just made the team or became a big contributor, those are the guys you remember most.
“I don’t remember just the best players. I remember all of them. Some of the guys that I’ve become really good friends with are guys who were bench guys and role players.”
Boggess always will be a teacher at heart.