To the League and back again; Owens brings NBA experience to NM State hoops

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Casey Owens’ life-long love for basketball was spawned at the Pan American Center.

“Gowing up here was what really inspired my love of the game,” Owens said.

It’s fitting, then, that Owens’ basketball journey has brought him back to Las Cruces and to the university he grew up rooting for and attended. After nearly 20 years coaching professional hoops, an unexpected opportunity brought Owens to Chris Jans’ staff as the director of operations at the start of the season.

“It was a surprise to me and probably to him as well that, A, there was a spot open that late and B, that we were able to work it out but its been outstanding,” Owens said.

Owens may be new to the college game, but his resume is impressive. He returned to Las Cruces after a few years as an assistant with the Los Angeles Lakers, during which time he also was the head coach of L.A.’s G-League affiliate.

“Getting back in to the NBA was something I always had my eye on and certainly working for an organziation like the Lakers was definitely a dream come true. It was a really fun place to work and you have the spotlight of the world on you in a basketball sense.”

His coaching career has also taken him outside the United State, to places like China, Venezuela and Mexico. Learning the game in different countries, under immense pressure helped him develop a thick skin.

“Overseas, the pressure to win is enormous,” said Owens. “You’re coaching for your job game-by-game. They’ll fire you at any point.”

All of that experience at the next level has been a big boost to the Aggies program.

“Having him up in our office every day talking basketball and different ways to look at the game and to scheme the game has been a nice surprise for us,” head coach Chris Jans said.

In another banner season at NMSU, Owens has been able to step in and help the school he loves, with the added bonus of spending every day with his son Tennessee, a walk-on for the Aggies.

“It’s been really surreal because this is obviously a program that’s been very dear and close to me and the way it all came together is really unique,” Owens said. I’ll value it forever being able to be around him every day in practice.”

Owens and the Aggies will look to clinch a share of the WAC regular season title on Saturday against UTRGV. It’s a 4 p.m. tipoff at the Pan Am Center. 

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