Norman, Okla. Men moving to start new phases of their basketball lives so often travel the roads that connect Kansas and Oklahoma.
Bill Self played at Oklahoma State and worked as a camp counselor for Larry Brown, where Self aggressively turned Brown’s courtesy offer to “let me know if there is ever anything I can do for you,” into a job as a graduate assistant coach at Kansas.
Self hit the road in the opposite direction to work as full-time assistant on the staffs of Leonard Hamilton and Eddie Sutton at Oklahoma State. After enduring an 18-game losing streak on his way to turning around Oral Roberts, Self moved across town long enough to take Tulsa to the Elite Eight. After three years in Illinois, Self returned to his coaching roots and is in his ninth season at Kansas.
Ted Owens played college basketball at Oklahoma, ultimately worked his way to Lawrence and then worked his way up to head basketball coach and took the Jayhawks to two Final Fours in 19 seasons.
Now it’s Teddy’s turn. Teddy Owens, son of the former KU coach, was born in Lawrence, graduated from Oklahoma State, and is in his first season on the staff of Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger, who played and coached at Kansas State and is back in the Big 12 after coaching at Illinois, in the NBA and at UNLV.
Teddy was living in Tulsa and coaching high school basketball when he received the offer that launched his college coaching career at the entry level. Naturally, Teddy wasn’t at home when he received the offer. He was in Lawrence. He had just finished a two-week stretch as counselor at the Bill Self Basketball Camp.
“I was walking out of Yello Sub, ready to drive home when coach Kruger called and offered me the job,” Teddy said of the moment that he said came about a month after he expressed interest in an entry-level job on the staff. “That was the easiest four-hour drive of my life.”
Even though the move up to college came with a move down in job title from head coach to coaching pupil. Teddy, 30, is taking classes toward a master’s in human resources.
“I never thought I’d go back to school,” Teddy said. “I’m enjoying my classes.”
Not as much as the lessons he learns from Kruger. Owens performs odd jobs ranging from mailing letters to recruits to rebounding for players practicing their jumpers.
“Coach Kruger’s really good about letting us sit in on meetings so we can learn from what they do,” he said. “I was 26, 27 when I first became a high school coach, and I was a little hot-headed. Coach Kruger is so patient with the guys and then there are times when he gets fired up, and they really feed off his intensity. I’m learning a lot from him.”
OU’s coach is a native Kansan, from Silver Lake; KU’s coach an Oklahoman, from Edmond. Kruger, a two-time Big Eight Player of the Year, was an assistant at K-State during Self’s first season playing for Oklahoma State. Self was Kruger’s successor as head coach of Illinois.
Many in today’s Noble Center crowd will have connections to both coaches. Billy Tubbs, OU’s coach when Self played for OSU and a coaching foe of Ted Owens and Kruger, will be in attendance. Ted Owens, who coached against Kruger the player and the K-State assistant and against Self the player, will be there too.
Teddy was not even 3 when his father lost his job at Kansas, but does have a vague memory of his mother taking him for walks and letting him play in the Chi Omega Fountain, a slice of forbidden fruit for the future coach.
When Teddy and/or Ted make trips to Lawrence, they need not book a hotel. Naturally, the family that welcomes them has a strong connection to both KU and OU basketball. Jon Hofer and his wife, the former Paige Pendarvis, welcome the Owenses into their Lawrence home. Paige is the granddaughter of Ted’s college coach, Bruce Drake, and his wife, Myrtle. Donna (Drake) Pendarvis, Paige’s mom, Bruce’s daughter, was a cheerleader at OU when her father coached there and Bud Wilkinson coached the Sooners to 47 consecutive football victories. Paige cheered at KU.
Jon Hofer informs that Donna died at the age of 70 on the day of OU basketball’s 100th anniversary banquet. Myrtle died six weeks later at 98 on April 4, 2007, the 19th anniversary of KU’s national championship victory against OU, the last day of Paige’s cheerleading career.
With so many connections through so many generations, it sure would have been a shame to see the Big 12 blow up.