It’s been a busy couple of months for Ted Owens.
In addition to keeping up with his investment business in Tulsa, Okla., the former University of Kansas basketball coach was recently inducted into one hall of fame and is set to go into another.
The 80-year-old Owens was inducted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame in early August and now receives a similar honor in Kansas.
“It’s been a real special year for me,” said Owens, who is one of only eight head coaches in the tradition-rich history of KU basketball. “A lot of great people have done a lot of good things for me. I’m grateful.”
Owens coached the Kansas Jayhawks for 19 seasons (1964-83) and posted a 348-182 record for a winning percentage of .657. Owens guided Kansas to six Big Eight conference championships and seven times to the NCAA Tournament. Owens is second all time at KU behind Phog Allen in years coached at the school and third in victories behind Allen and Roy Williams. A five-time Big Eight Coach of the Year and 1978 national coach of the year, Owens coached five All-Americans at KU - JoJo White, Dave Robisch, Bud Stallworth, Darnell Valentine, and Walter Wesley.
“Wonderful memories and great players,” Owens said. “The people and fans there were fantastic.”
Under Owens, the Jayhawks reached the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 five times and the Elite Eight three times. His 1971 team was the first undefeated team in Big-8 history (14-0), winning both conference and tournament titles, and finished with an overall record of 27-3.
Three years after reaching the Final Four in 1971, the Jayhawks did it again in ’74. But, a near miss in 1966 is what still haunts Owens and KU basketball fans today. Kansas and Texas Western (now UTEP) met in the regional finals that year and the Jayhawks looked like they were heading to the Final Four after guard JoJo White knocked down a long field goal at the buzzer to give his team the two-point victory in overtime.
But, an official Rudy Marich ruled the back of White’s shoe had touched the out of bounds line and waved off the shot. Texas Western went on the win in double-overtime (81-80) and the rest, as they say, is history. The Miners, starting five black players, went on to defeat all-white Kentucky in the NCAA championship game. The team was featured in a movie “Glory Road” a couple years ago.
“I really thought we were the best two teams in the country,” Owens said. “I was at the NCAA Tournament a couple years ago when the (Texas Western) players were honored. We were at a reception and I walked over and said, ‘You know guys, without that call (against White), there would have been no Glory Road.”
Of course, Owens said it with a smile on his face.
Owens finished his career at Kansas with nine Big Eight Tournament titles. A three-year letterman in basketball at the University of Oklahoma, Owens set the OU field goal percentage record in 1951 and Owens honed his coaching skills at Cameron State Junior College in Lawton, Okla., where his teams advanced to the NJCAA Tournament in Hutchinson three times in four years.
Owens was named an assistant at Kansas under Dick Harp in 1960 and was elevated to the head coaching position in 1964. Following his career at Kansas, Owens was the head coach for two years at Oral Roberts University. He is back in his home state after other coaching stints, but his thoughts never stray far from his days at Kansas.
“Oklahoma is my native state, but Kansas is my adopted state,” Owens said. “What makes Oklahoma and Kansas so special is the people. They are some of the greatest people in the world. It’s a privilege to be honored by them.”