Jack Owens didn’t drink coffee before this year. He doesn’t sleep much these days — not since he was named Miami men’s basketball head coach.
“I think ‘junkie’ is the right word for him,” MU Director of Basketball Operations Ryne Smith said. “He’s always looking for an edge to get our team better and to help our coaching staff, so he’s always watching film.”
Basketball has been a way of life for Owens since he was five years old. During his playing career, he was a point guard for Indianapolis’ George Washington High School and then three different colleges.
Now, he watches an insane amount of film. This year, Owens’ first season as head basketball coach, he led the program to its first postseason tournament since 2011.
“I don’t have hobbies,” Owens said. “Outside of church and family, it’s basketball, and I’m consumed with it as much as possible.”
From the outside, the team’s progression looked effortless, as newcomers like Nike Sibande — who was later named Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year — and Darrian Ringo took a team that went 11-21 last season to the College Basketball Invitational Tournament just one year later.
But, this “effortless” turnaround was the result of 17-hour workdays and all-night gameplanning by Owens and his staff.
Miami Athletic Director David Sayler could sense this dedication during his first interaction with Owens. They initially met at a Denny’s in West Lafayette to talk about the RedHawks’ head coaching vacancy. Sayler remembers that Owens ordered oatmeal, but didn’t touch it. He was only interested in talking basketball and coaching philosophy.
“He was very well-organized and meticulous,” Sayler said. “I think he left hungry, but it was a good meeting.”
Since Owens was hired, in the weeks after that first meeting, he has expected his players and staff to mimic his dedication. Still, it’s likely that Owens’ dedication can’t be matched.
Inheriting a program that hadn’t recorded a winning season in almost a decade, Owens hit the ground running when he arrived in Oxford. He and his staff started recruiting right away, repeatedly working 17-hour days in the first few weeks. This paid off when they snagged six recruits before the start of last season.
Once he had the players, Owens knew he needed to instill a winning culture at Miami — something the program had lacked during its seven-year postseason drought.
Owens demands a certain level of play each and every workout, practice and game, even though it might make his players less sociable than they might want to be.
“Just making a commitment to each other and taking a winning approach to each and every game is definitely something that [my staff and I] harp on everyday,” Owens said.
His staff has bought into his impressive work ethic.
Ryne Smith knows Owens better than most. He played under Owens at Purdue and was the first assistant coach Owens hired at Miami.
“His expectations are very high everyday,” Smith said. “He never takes a day off. He’s the hardest worker I’ve probably ever been around in terms of preparation and he wants to put [his players] in the best position possible to be successful on and off the court.”
Owens’ preparation is constantly watching film. He not only rewatches game film, but records and analyzes practices as well. Even though he was only one week into the offseason, he broke down two games on film while flying back from a recruiting trip last Wednesday.
As recently as two weeks ago, Owens stayed up all night gameplanning before heading to Buies Creek, North Carolina to play Campbell in the College Basketball Invitational. The RedHawks lost in a 97-87 shootout, but Owens is proud of the direction his team is headed in.
Despite his success and workaholic tendencies, Owens doesn’t like to talk about himself. The words come easy for him when he’s talking about his team. When talking about himself, there’s a slight hesitation.
“I’m a reserved guy,” Owens said. “If we’re sitting in a room, I probably won’t say too many words to you.”
But Owens hasn’t needed to be outspoken. His team’s play speaks for itself.
Other coaches, including Missouri’s Cuonzo Martin and Owens’ mentor Matt Painter of Purdue, have called Owens to commend him on the program he’s building at Miami. Though, Owens’ personal favorite phone call came from former NBA and current Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton.
“It was cool to hear from someone of [Hamilton’s] caliber — who I’ve met, but didn’t really know — reach out and say he took notice of what we’re doing here at Miami,” Owens said. “That was pretty cool.”
But Owens isn’t satisfied. He probably won’t ever be.
There’s always more basketball to be played and film to be watched, and that’s what he lives for. The season has only been over for a week and a half, but Owens has spent most of his “offseason” the same way he’ll spent most of the next month and a half — recruiting and working to get Miami back to loftier heights.