BURLESON — After a little more than two years away from the coaching realm, Kevin Ozee realized he wasn’t fully serving what he considers his purpose in life. So when he decided to get back in public education as an athletic director, an opportunity presented itself, and not too long after he was named the new athletic director at Burleson ISD on Feb. 17.
Ozee’s first day on the job as BISD’s athletic director was Monday, and the successful former athletic director at Arlington, Carroll, and Duncanville ISDs said “the juices are back flowing for me” in an interview with the Times-Review on Friday.
Ozee brings 25 years of experience with more than 25 trips to state in various sports and 19 state championship titles to his new role in Burleson. In 2013, Ozee was recognized by the National Association of Sports and Physical Education as the National High School Athletic Director of the Year for exemplifying the highest standards in his profession and his contributions to schools and communities.
“We wanted a pro,” said BISD Superintendent Bret Jimerson when Ozee was hired. “We wanted the best in the business, and we believe we accomplished that with Kevin Ozee.”
After leaving Arlington ISD in May 2017, Ozee stepped a bit outside of his comfort zone and took an executive vice president job with an oil company. Despite being successful in his new career, it didn’t take long for Ozee to realize how much he missed coaching.
“I missed the coaches and students,” Ozee said. “I believe my calling and purpose is to serve coaches and student-athletes, and I really missed that. I grew up around it; my dad’s a retired coach. He was a coach and AD for 38 years. It was the only life I knew until I got in the oil business. I missed it. I was doing very, very well in the oil business but something was missing, and the missing piece was that purpose and calling.”
As Ozee was starting to come around on getting back into public education and coaching, he said he received a phone call from a coach about the Burleson ISD job. And ultimately, Jimerson was a leading factor in why Ozee chose Burleson.
“One of the coaches called me out of the blue and asked if I was looking to get back in,” Ozee said. “I said, ‘I’m going to be picky because I have a great, great job in the oil business.’ He asked if I would come down and talk to Dr. Jimerson. We hit it off from the moment we met. His vision for the district and how he operates and allows his administrators to operate really intrigued me.”
It also helped that Ozee and his wife were already familiar with Burleson.
“On top of that, my wife and I, our family used to live in Burleson,” he said. “When I was teaching and coaching and then assistant AD in Duncanville, we lived in Burleson and my wife was a veterinarian here. When I was promoted to Duncaville’s AD, they had a rule where you had to live there. That’s the main reason we left Burleson; we loved it here. So we had a little bit of familiarity with the community. Of course, that was in the early 2000s and it’s grown a lot.
“But a little familiarity with Burleson, Dr. Jimerson’s vision, and the feeling that ... [the moment] is ripe to take this athletic program to the next level is [what attracted me to Burleson ISD].”
Ozee compared Burleson’s current landscape, growth and potential for success to when things really started rolling during his time in Duncanville.
“There was a lot of fast growth, a lot of excitement and a vision for the athletic program when I first started in Duncanville,” he said. “And I see that here in Burleson.”
Ozee, who helped lead Carroll ISD to three consecutive UIL Lone Star Cups, said the vision for Burleson ISD athletics is to start with a strong education base and build everything from there.
“Our goal is to be the premier education-based athletic program in the nation,” Ozee said. “Education-based is the key there, and that’s not just a slogan or what we hang on the wall. We’re going to win and we’re going to celebrate wins, but the winning is a byproduct of everything else we do. Everything else we do is going to be education focused and leadership focused and training our athletes to prepare them for the real world and how to deal with adversity and how to handle winning and how to be a leader.
“When you start taking care of things like that, winning is a byproduct. I emphasize being an education-based athletic program because of the rise of club sports and private sports, and that’s great but their only emphasis is winning games. In the school business, our focus is educating kids for life through the athletic program.”
As athletic director, Ozee said one of his main focal points will be equipping his coaches with as many tools as possible.
“We pour a lot into our coaches in terms of making them the experts of their sport in the town and getting them to a point where parents and kids trust their voice,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of success doing that. It’s all about the coaches being top-notch. If you get great coaches, you’re going to have great kids, and the rest falls into place.”
One of the first responsibilities Ozee was tasked with as BISD AD was finding a new head football coach and athletic coordinator for Burleson High School after longtime Elks Coach Gary McElroy recently took the athletic director and head football position at Peaster ISD.
Ozee believes they’ve found the right man for the job as the Burleson ISD board of trustees is scheduled to meet Monday evening to consider hiring the new athletic coordinator and head football coach at Burleson High School.
“... I can tell you we went through a pretty extensive process and it was a unanimous decision from the committee,” Ozee said. “I believe that coaches have the most influence in their community. I know we already have good coaches that make positive influences every day, but this hire is going to be very influential and very positive. It’s going to be a great hiring for Burleson, not only the high school but the entire community.”
As the Elks are set to find out their new head football coach, Ozee said his first week on the job in Burleson has been made even more exciting with the success of Burleson Centennial boys basketball, which is scheduled to compete in the Class 5A Region I semifinals Friday night in Snyder.
“I was so excited Tuesday night [after the Spartans’ regional quarterfinal win over Arlington Seguin] that I couldn’t sleep when I got home,” Ozee said. “What I’m embarrassed about is I don’t even know the kids’ names, but I can’t wait to get to know them. Not only can they play basketball but they look like great young men. The juices are back flowing for me with my purpose and passion and things like that. I know they weren’t playing on my behalf but it was like, ‘What a welcome!’”
If the Spartans beat El Paso Eastwood on Friday, Centennial will face the winner of Wichita Falls Rider and Mansfield Timberview at 2 p.m. Saturday in the regional finals with a trip to the state tournament on the line.
Check back Monday evening for news on Burleson High School’s new head football coach.