When Jake Wright heard Wednesday that Jack Owens would most likely be Miami’s next men’s basketball coach, he started doing some research.
“He knows a lot about winning,” the RedHawks’ third-year sophomore guard said before Thursday’s press conference at which Owens was formally introduced. “He comes from a winning program and a winning culture. I found out that he had high character.”
Owens, 39, was introduced by athletic director David Sayler at Millett Hall to a gathering of media and Miami fans.
Owens comes to Oxford after spending nine seasons on Matt Painter’s staff at Purdue, the last six as associate head coach. The Big Ten Boilermakers averaged 23.2 wins per season during Owens’ tenure, including 27 on the way to the conference regular-season championship this season. They reached the NCAA Tournament in seven of Owens’ nine seasons, including three Sweet 16 appearances, and he’s helped teams reach postseason play in 13 of the past 17 seasons.
That background piqued Sayler’s interest when Painter called him about Owens, the athletic director said.
“(Painter) has hired him twice,” Sayler said. “That call stuck out to me. (Owens’) character and integrity stand out. It’s there in abundance.
“Good things happen to good people,” Sayler added. “People who do the work and let their jobs stand for them — good things happen to those people.”
Sayler, who also is closing in on naming a new women’s basketball coach, and Owens agreed that similarities between Purdue and Miami made the job attractive to the Indianapolis native.
“When this job opened up, it touched me in the right way,” said Owens, who agreed to a five-year contract for $350,000 a year. “This is the first job I absolutely pursued.”
One of Owens’ first tasks was a brief Wednesday meeting with the RedHawks, who struggled to records of 11-21 overall and 4-14 in the Mid-American Conference this season, the last of John Cooper’s five as coach. Miami has strung together eight consecutive sub-.500 seasons.
“It was about 10 minutes,” said Wright, who transferred to Miami from The Citadel. “It’s exciting. He just talked about becoming champions on the court, but also becoming champions in life. That was really it.”
“Our mission is to graduate champions in all phases of life,” Owens echoed at Thursday’s session.
Owens will have three scholarships to offer when recruiting resumes after the Final Four, leading up to April 12, the first date high school seniors can sign letters of intent. Despite a reputation as a tireless, effective recruiter, he was unable to change the minds of twin brothers Michael and Marcus Weathers, who had decided before he was hired to transfer from Miami. Michael Weathers led Miami in scoring and was named the Mid-American Conference freshman of the year this season.
“I met with them twice in 24 hours, but I was unable to reel them in,” Owens said, adding that he believes he’ll be able to compete on the recruiting trail.
“We’ll attack every area of the Midwest in recruiting,” he promised. “We want to win, but we want to do it the right way. We’re not going to enable kids. Education is important to me and my family. This place has everything to be successful. The campus is beautiful. It’s a place we can recruit to. The facilities are something we’ll address in the future, but it’s people who recruit, and this is definitely a place you can recruit to.”
The Weathers twins are expected to be the only departures. Wright certainly isn’t going anywhere.
“I’ve already transferred once,” he said. “I’m not going through that again. I’m Miami, through and through. Love and honor until I die.”