Ted Owens never set out to write a book about his life. But a few years ago, while the former Kansas basketball coach was on vacation, he began to think about his mother and father, Homer and Annie.
They had grown up as cotton farmers in Oklahoma, just south of the small town of Hollis, working long days and making sacrifices so Owens could pursue a life in basketball. But when they passed away, neither Homer nor Annie had left much in the form of a written history of the family.
“I started to think there were so many things about my dad and mother that I just never found out about,” Owens says, “because we just didn’t talk about them. And I said, ‘You know what, while I still have my wits about me, I wanted my kids and their kids to know about the incredible sacrifice my mom and dad went through during the depression.’”
So Owens began to write, the stories of his life, his coaching career, his tenure at Kansas, which lasted from 1964 to 1983, and the lessons he learned. The result is Owens’ new book, “At the Hang-Up,” a title that is a nod to his roots on the cotton farm.
“When you pull cotton, and you fill your sack, you carry it to the wagon, and you weigh the cotton on scales that are attached to the wagon; they call that the hang-up.
“My dad would always say: ‘It’s not what you have now boys, it’s what you have at the hang-up that counts.’”
Owens, who has planned a series of events around the book’s release, will be at the Kansas Sampler in Lenexa from 10-11:30 a.m. Saturday. The official book launch is set for 7 p.m. Sunday at the Kansas Union ballroom in Lawrence. He’ll also make two more appearances in Lawrence next week, including a pre-game signing in Allen Fieldhouse at 6 p.m. Tuesday before KU’s exhibition game against Fort Hays State.
Owens says he enjoyed reflecting on his time at Kansas, which included two Final Four appearances and an overall record of 348-182. Owens, whose tenure ended with his firing in 1983, is still the all-time winningest coach at Allen Fieldhouse.
“You had two feelings, most of them were just joyful feelings, remembering some wonderful times that happened in your life. And then there are some painful things, and that’s the way life is. Life isn’t all things just breaking your way.”
Owens, of course, has been a regular at Kansas’ basketball reunions back in Lawrence, where Bill Self has managed to connect with players throughout the different eras.
“Bill Self has been incredible,” Owens says. “He makes me feel so needed and wanted. But more important than me and my family, he wraps his arms around my players and makes it all a really close family.”