Don’t tell Darrell Hagemann that Llano High is not a basketball school. It served his purposes just fine, and those who follow McNeil High in Round Rock have no complaints. Hagemann, Jackets’ Class of 1980, has completed 20 years as the Mavericks’ head coach—the team’s only head coach in boys’ varsity basketball.
“That was definitely not the highlight of my time in Llano,” said Hagemann. “I played football and participated in track and tennis, too. In basketball one year, in our last game at Burnet, we finished with three guys on the floor.” He indicated turnout for the sport wasn’t too high.
Bruce Bush was Darrell’s coach. “No one worked harder than he did,” declared Bush. “He made up for not being very tall with raw effort.” The hardwood game at LHS wouldn’t be Bruce’s highlight, either, but he did just fine logging some three decades as a teacher of biology and other sciences.
Hagemann’s journey after Llano included Angelo State, then assistant coaching jobs, and in 1991, he was named head coach at Lake Travis, a district rival of the Jackets. One year later he helped begin the game at McNeil, and, by golly, the Black and Orange was his first foe—first win, too. 432 more have followed in Round Rock against 233 defeats.
His longest year was 1995-96 when his Mavericks, in just their fourth season, reached the Class 4A Final Four. The squad wound up 31-6.
“I don’t know anyone who doesn’t respect him,” insisted reporter Brad Stutzman of the Round Rock Leader. “He’s exactly the kind of person you’d want coaching your son.”
“We’ve had a bunch of good guards in my years,” Hagemann told me. “The bigs are coming now; we’ll throw it more to the posts.”
“Bigs” would have helped in the playoffs this past winter, as McNeil, led by no one bigger than six foot-one inch, lost in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs to Kingwood. That wrapped up a sensational 32-4 campaign that had a 26-game winning streak as part of the package of memories.
The biggest name to play for Darrell Hagemann wasn’t so big in stature: Guard A.J. Abrams, 2002-2005. Abrams, who would be a standout at Texas, led the Mavericks to 96 wins in three seasons. 35 triumphs came in ’03-’04, 32 more the following year. A talented teammate of Abrams was Myron Hardy, who also went to UT—but for football.
“Our guys play 12 months a year,” Hagemann noted. “They play nights and weekends in the off-season. If you want to keep up with the Joneses, you got to play.” He doesn’t emphasize all this in a tone of, “These are orders,” but he adds, “My boys understand that’s what they’re going to do, and they love the game.”
“He had more guts than other guys,” coach Bush recalled, “and he dreamed big.”
Classmate Terry Hutto remembers Darrell as “detail oriented,” so his decision on a vocation, and success in it, doesn’t surprise him.
Hagemann does lament the fact that, “I got to play everything at Llano, but it’s hard at a school like McNeil where athletes specialize so much.”
“He’s the Tom Landry of the school,” Stutzman observes. It’s not a shocking comparison, but an accurate one. “He’s very knowledgeable and has ability to work with young kids. There’s not a better coach, not a better person.”