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Passing of an NIU HOF Walt "Coach O" Owens
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randyfensfanclub1 Offline
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Passing of an NIU HOF Walt "Coach O" Owens
For anyone who knew him as coach, mentor or instructor in baseball or basketball coaching at NIU knows we lost a good one. He was such a joy to listen to his stories inside and outside of sports. I will always remember him asking people to try to picture their life in essay, even in coaching. (Mine didn't quite turnout as imagined lol)

I last saw him at Midway on way to Orange Bowl. So glad I got to chat with him and his wife. He is one of the 2 instructors at NIU I can remember having an influence on my thoughts, decision making and actions. The other being Gordon Hilton.

The world will miss Coach O but be grateful for his accomplishments and influence.


https://northernstar.info/80477/sports/s...ies-at-87/

NIU hall of famer Walt Owens dies at 87
Northern Star Staff
September 21, 2020

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DeKALB — NIU hall of famer Walt Owens died Sunday. Coach “O” was 87 years old.

Owens was the baseball coach from 1976 to 1982, winning 133 games. He was also an assistant coach for the men’s basketball team from 1973 to 1978. He was an NIU faculty member from 1973 to 2011.

He was an emeritus professor by the time of his retirement. Over his years at NIU, he mentored thousands of students, Larry Bolles, Owen’s best friend said.

He also served on the Presidential Commission on the Status of Minorities and the Task Force on Racial Discrimination and Sexual Harassment.

Beyond NIU, Owens played in the Negro Leagues with the Detroit Stars from 1953 to 1955, and Owens remained in the city as a teacher for its public schools and served as a coach in multiple sports.

He was on the board for the National Congress of Black Faculty as well as a member of the Illinois Committee on Black Concerns in Higher Education.





Great read of his lifetime accomplishments

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Owens
09-22-2020 11:05 AM
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Milwaukee Pilot Offline
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RE: Passing of an NIU HOF Walt "Coach O" Owens
Great guy! RIP, Coach.

Had him for a coaching baseball class in probably 82 or 83. Spent more time talking about how his daughter was the best athlete in the family despite his son, Mel, playing for the Rams.

Thoroughly enjoyed his stories of Kasey Kasem on the baseball field and not the radio and still remember all the stories about Willie Horton and the Detroit Tigers.

I actually still have the Ron Polk (Miss. St coach) book that he used in the class.

To the family----condolences.
09-22-2020 11:18 AM
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randyfensfanclub1 Offline
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RE: Passing of an NIU HOF Walt "Coach O" Owens
(09-22-2020 11:18 AM)Milwaukee Pilot Wrote:  Great guy! RIP, Coach.

Had him for a coaching baseball class in probably 82 or 83. Spent more time talking about how his daughter was the best athlete in the family despite his son, Mel, playing for the Rams.

Thoroughly enjoyed his stories of Kasey Kasem on the baseball field and not the radio and still remember all the stories about Willie Horton and the Detroit Tigers.

I actually still have the Ron Polk (Miss. St coach) book that he used in the class.

To the family----condolences.

Duaghter, Willie Horton...yup.

He brought a video in once. It was during national anthem at NBA all star game in Charlotte. They panned to him him on national feed. Well really guy next to him, Jim Rice. He said they talked hitting.

And my favorite, "When you make it in the world, remember I need two (tickets)."

Both Classic Coach O.
(This post was last modified: 09-22-2020 12:36 PM by randyfensfanclub1.)
09-22-2020 12:35 PM
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HW58 Offline
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RE: Passing of an NIU HOF Walt "Coach O" Owens
Sorry to say I never heard of Coach Owens, let alone met him. Wish I had! Thanks for sharing, guys. Sounds like a definite Huskie legend.
09-22-2020 01:32 PM
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DPD Offline
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RE: Passing of an NIU HOF Walt "Coach O" Owens
I was lucky enough to be in one of his last classes, introduction to coaching basketball in 2010 or 2011. The class was essentially listening to his lifetime of stories and was hands down the most enjoyable, impactful classes I had during my time there. He had a story for everything and great sense of humor. He would have been 78 years old at the time and certainly no need to still be teaching but you could tell it was what he loved to do. I’ll never forget him busting out his old 35mm slide projector or the story of his son telling him he wanted to be an all American football player some day so Walt responded by giving him a bike to ride to and from school 20miles everyday to build up his calf and leg muscles. Definitely one of the greats to pass through NIU.
09-22-2020 04:39 PM
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NIU05 Offline
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RE: Passing of an NIU HOF Walt "Coach O" Owens
Walt was incredible. He was a Big Man for his era. Want a personality. Should have been in show biz, a stand up comedian. He used to say about the football players....Big,dumb and full of ---. His son was a big time player at Michigan and played in the NFL, an OLB for the Rams. He's probably still joking and smiling.... RIP
09-22-2020 07:31 PM
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randyfensfanclub1 Offline
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RE: Passing of an NIU HOF Walt "Coach O" Owens
(09-22-2020 07:31 PM)NIU05 Wrote:  Walt was incredible. He was a Big Man for his era. Want a personality. Should have been in show biz, a stand up comedian. He used to say about the football players....Big,dumb and full of ---. His son was a big time player at Michigan and played in the NFL, an OLB for the Rams. He's probably still joking and smiling.... RIP

03-lmfao
09-22-2020 10:09 PM
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niu79 Offline
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RE: Passing of an NIU HOF Walt "Coach O" Owens
I took both coaching baseball and coaching basketball with Coach Owens in 1976 and 1977. Some great stories from his time as a high school coach in Detroit where he coached the likes of Willie Horton, Alex Johnson and Spencer Haywood. He kept attendance by having you sign a sig- in sheet before every class. One day he decided to take a roll call and when he got to one unsuspecting student he casually let them know that whoever had been signing them in for class every day had been misspelling their name! It's been 43 years but it remains one of the funniest moments I can recall from my college years. He never talked about his life before becoming a coach. It was decades after I graduated that I read he had played professionally in the Negro leagues. I'm sure those stories would have been as fascinating to hear.
(This post was last modified: 09-23-2020 08:15 AM by niu79.)
09-23-2020 08:14 AM
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randyfensfanclub1 Offline
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RE: Passing of an NIU HOF Walt "Coach O" Owens
(09-23-2020 08:14 AM)niu79 Wrote:  I took both coaching baseball and coaching basketball with Coach Owens in 1976 and 1977. Some great stories from his time as a high school coach in Detroit where he coached the likes of Willie Horton, Alex Johnson and Spencer Haywood. He kept attendance by having you sign a sig- in sheet before every class. One day he decided to take a roll call and when he got to one unsuspecting student he casually let them know that whoever had been signing them in for class every day had been misspelling their name! It's been 43 years but it remains one of the funniest moments I can recall from my college years. He never talked about his life before becoming a coach. It was decades after I graduated that I read he had played professionally in the Negro leagues. I'm sure those stories would have been as fascinating to hear.

Funny NIU story about attendance....

I had cinema class at night like 1990. They called like 15 names "random" every day out of like 75. 1st time not there, pass, 2nd time lowered grade or something. I bet the guy who was the asst called the same name every other, 3rd class. His name: Pau Molitor. He snickered every time he called it.
09-23-2020 10:53 AM
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uiniu57 Offline
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RE: Passing of an NIU HOF Walt "Coach O" Owens
Pasted below is Mike Korcek's piece on Walt Owens:

'COACH O', ATHLETE, HALL OF FAMER, LIFE MENTOR, RACIAL PIONEER: WALT OWENS ANSWERED TO ALL[/u]
By MIKE KORCEK
Multi-sport athlete. Hall of Famer. Educator, father figure, pioneer, and life counselor. Or just “Coach O.”
Whether it was the Northern Illinois University community or his native Detroit during a 54-year teaching career, the man who answered to all of those platitudes, Walt Owens died Sunday at age 87.
“I believe this was on his Hall of Fame plaque in the Convocation Center. In essence, it read ‘how many NIU students did Walt mentor or impact?’ I am certainly one of them,” said Rick Cerrone, former New York Yankees public relations director and current editor-in-chief of Baseball Digest magazine. “From the first time I met him in 1973, I learned something every time I talked to him. He was a treasure.”
Commented NIU Hall of Famer Kenny Battle (1984-86): “He was a mentor to all of us who went through NIU. He kept us on track in the classroom, on campus. ‘Coach O’ meant a lot to people at NIU.”
Added Lisa Gilfoy, a member of the Hall of Fame 1988 Northern Illinois women’s softball team that advanced to the NCAA College World Series: “One of my favorite teachers...”
Owens came to NIU in 1973-74 as faculty and an assistant men’s basketball coach under head man Emory Luck for three seasons, remained on John McDougal’s cage staff for two more winters, then concentrated on his duties as the Huskies’ head baseball coach during 1976-82 before joining the academic ranks.
His top contribution to Northern Illinois hoops might have been the recruitment of maybe the most prolific scorer in program history. In the mid-1970s, a coaching friend in Detroit told Owens he had to see this kid in Saginaw. It was a one-man, 6-foot-5 point machine named Paul Dawkins who would operate in Chick Evans Field House as “Doctor D”, score 1,736 career points, average a school-record 26.7 ppg. as a senior, play for the Utah Jazz, and become a member of NIU’s Athletics Hall of Fame.
In baseball, Owens would produce 133 coaching triumphs---third-best in program history. His best Northern Illinois campaign would be a 26-13-2 mark in 1977. “Coach O’ tutored two Mid-American Conference batting champions in Clayton Armstrong (.438 average) in 1977 and Mark Boothe (.439) in 1980, plus MAC home run leader Jeff Sevenich (12) in 1980 and loop stolen base king Alvin Maynard (41) in 1979. The Owens era produced ten All-Mid-Am performers, headed by first-teamers Jay Graziano (1976), Mike Avallone (1977), and Maynard (1980).
“There’s one reason I came to Northern---and that’s Walt,” said Dr. Gordon Nuber, a two-time NIU Athletics Hall of Famer and recently retired Chicago Bears, Cubs, and Blackhawks team physician who resides in the suburbs. “I wouldn’t have been in Chicago without his guidance. He was my connection. His friendship with Emory Luck got me to NIU. I will always appreciate my time there.”
Lest we forget, Nuber said that in the late 1960s at Detroit Denby High School, everybody called him “Coach O.”
Nuber, a 6-foot-7 basketball standout at Denby under Owens, lettered three years (1970-73) for Northern Illinois head coach Tom Jorgensen when Luck was his assistant. “Walt seemed to know everybody or had a story about everybody in Detroit,” Nuber added. “John Mayberry. Willie Horton. Alex Johnson. Spencer Haywood. He got me in a Michigan all-star game with all his connections.”
A three-sport star at Detroit Northwestern High School, Owens coached four sports at Denby. He led his DHS quintets to three Class A District titles and two in baseball. Owens also taught at Cass Tech and Mumford high schools, the latter where he hired Luck as a basketball assistant in 1962-63.
At Western Michigan University, Owens played basketball and ran track. As a senior in 1955, he ran on the Bronco 880-yard relay team which set a MAC record in the league championship meet. Owens earned his Bachelor of Arts (1955) and Master of Arts (1968) degrees from WMU.
Unknown for years was the fact that Owens was a pitcher / outfielder for the Detroit Stars of the Negro American League for three summers (1953-55). Advised to stay in school, he performed under an assumed name to maintain his amateur status. In two at-bats vs. the legendary Satchel Paige one season, Owens hit a single and struck out. In 1957, Owens integrated baseball in his city by joining the previously all-white Detroit Pepsi-Cola team.
On the hardwood back in the day, Owens performed against the Canadian Olympic team. As a member of the Boston Whirlwinds and a Bevo Francis teammate, “Coach O” provided the opposition vs. the Harlem Globetrotters.
In 2008, Major League Baseball honored surviving Negro League players who could not play in the big leagues due to their race. In a special draft, all 30 MLB clubs picked for a former NLB player. Owens was drafted by the Cubs.
As an emeritus NIU professor in 2011, Owens received the E.B. Henderson Award, which acknowledges those who have made outstanding contributions and development of their community for leadership in opposing racial discrimination in his profession and society. At NIU, he chaired the Presidential Commission on the Status of Minorities and served as a member of the Task Force on Racial Discrimination and Sexual Harassment. Owens was also a board member of the National Congress of Black Faculty and a member of the Illinois Committee on Black Concerns in Higher Education.
Owens is a member of the NIU athletics, the Negro League Baseball, and the Detroit Negro Slow-Pitch Softball League halls of fame. He participated in local softball until 2007.
At the turn of the century when Northern Illinois hosted a series of men's basketball alumni games, I was fortunate enough to be one of the "head coaches" (as reward for riding the bus from 1966 to 2006) with Walt as "my assistant." Many thanks for the support and substitution suggestions, "Coach O." He will be missed.
Funeral arrangements are pending. Owens is survived by his wife, Jan, and four children. His oldest son, Mel, was an All-State linebacker at DeKalb High School, an All-Big Ten performer at the University of Michigan, and a nine-year player with the Los Angeles Rams.
09-24-2020 08:21 PM
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