LAS CRUCES, NEW MEXICO (KTSM) – It’s no secret: basketball has always been number one for the Owens family.
“It was just a normal thing to have (my son) there at practice,” said Casey Owens. “He learned the game from an extremely young age and it’s kind of been all he’s known.”
New Mexico State assistant coach Casey Owens as been around the world and back again coaching hoops. But the last two years have been perhaps his most rewarding, as he’s gotten to coach his son: Aggies junior guard Tennessee Owens.
“He’s taken the opportunity to teach young kids the game,” Tennessee Owens said. “He’s used his professional experience and the stories he’s learned along the way to teach kids about life more than anything.”
Casey, Tennessee, and mom Susannah and sister Ophelia have had a long and winding road in basketball. Casey coached professional basketball across the United States in minor leagues, also making pit stops in China and Venezuela, before ascending to the highest level as a coach for the NBA’s Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. The vagabond lifestyle forged a unique father-son bond.
“It was just us a lot of the time. We became really close. He’s like my best friend,” said Tennessee.
When Casey was coaching in the CBA, a young Tennessee got to be one of the guys, traveling with the team on bus trips to road games. It’s one of his father’s favorite memories.
“I loved watching him interact with the guys,” said Casey. “These were overnight trips and long day trips, Tennessee running up and down the aisles. Those players were his heroes of course.”
Casey’s experience around the globe gives him a unique perspective for the Aggies roster to learn from.
“When he walks into a room and says something, all of the guys listen,” said Tennessee. “That’s what gives me a little bit of goosebumps is you know, that’s my dad. People want to hear what he has to say.”
“They understand that I don’t have any other agenda other than helping them become great players and great young men,” said Casey.
That extends off the court, where the Owens family have long been advocates of racial equality and social justice. It’s a creed Casey has taught his children to live by.
“Love is going to overcome hatred and that’s certainly what I’m hopeful for; but to ignore our past, you’re doomed to repeat it. The cliche is true,” said Casey.
When he hangs up his whistle at the end of every day, Casey has perfected his most important role: being a dad.
“He was always there for us,” said Tennessee. “He was caring and made sure we were always taken care of. Most importantly, he took care of my mom the best.”
When his playing days are over, Tennessee wants to take up the family business. For now though, father and son are enjoying this time together.
“It’s been a thrill. I’ll be sad when it ends, for sure,” said Casey.