Hearne: Ted Owens Bittersweet Return to KU Campus

owens-standing-tFrom first to worst – and then back – in 20 easy years…

That basically charts the popularity of Ted Owens, the 84 year-old former KU basketball head coach who returned to Lawrence yesterday for a book signing at the Kansas Union Ballroom on campus.

Paired with mega popular current KU coach Bill Self, it was a valedictorian visit, complete with accolades from former KU stars Owens coached during his 19 seasons, like Bud Stallworth and Tony Guy.

It was also essentially a minor rewrite of history and an overly fond remembrance of probably the most disliked KU basketball coach in the school’s storied past.

“Owens still finds it difficult to talk about the day his time as Kansas coach came to an end,” Lawrence Journal World sports ed Tom Keegan wrote two years back. “Still, he throws no stones, claims no injustices.”

“We’d had two really down years, but we had a great group of young players coming on,” Owens told Keegan. “I thought we’d turn it around and so forth, but you know, we had a couple of years there that were far below Kansas standards. They decided to make a change. After 23 years here, it was extremely painful. I absolutely loved it here, and I still do.”

Darnell Valentine

Darnell Valentine

I remember it well…

Not being much of a basketball fan, I bought season tickets to Owens much-maligned Jayhawks of the Darnell Valentine era. Basically to have somewhere to take a KU student I was dating at the time. In my eyes, those basketball Jayhawks were extremely entertaining and fun to watch.

ku_golf_self_williams_03_t440However I was apparently in the minority.

Those “wine (whine?) and cheese KU fans Roy Williams once blasted hated Owens for failing to win the Big One and allowing Missouri’s Norm Stewart and K-State’s Jack Hartman too much parity. So when Owens went out, he went out ugly.

Of course, none of the 200 students on campus who attended Owens’ book signing last night had any recollection whatsoever of all that. Thus when when Self chided Owens for getting up too early and picking up all his putts under six-feet, everybody laughed and all was forgiven…and finally forgotten.

And maybe that’s the way it should be.

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3 Responses to Hearne: Ted Owens Bittersweet Return to KU Campus

  1. Mysterious J says:

    But what does The Scribe think of Ted?

    • admin says:

      I think the Scribe might have been in the slammer – or at least working his way in that direction – when Ted was taking his lumps in Larry.

  2. DPW says:

    Owens was a good recruiter, but a below average coach. He never could coach against a decent zone. Jack Hartman killed him with a basic 3-2 zone almost every time. The worst was a game at Kentucky in 1978. KU was up by 6 points with less than 30 seconds left and KU ended up losing. Remember that this was beofre the 3 point line was used.

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