Southeast Missouri hoops brings in its latest 'grinder' to the Redhawk coaching staff

New Southeast Missouri State men's basketball assistant coach Jason Owens works with young campers during the program's initial day of individual camp Monday at the Show Me Center.
Jacob Wiegand ~ Southeast Missourian

Each March, the nation turns its attention to the sport of college basketball and fans watch with envy as the coaches work the sidelines in front of thousands within the arena and millions more viewing at home.

Stories are written regarding the salaries earned by the most prominent head coaches and a picture is painted of the profession that becomes a “glamour shot” equivalent of a Linked In profile.

The reality of the coaching profession, however, is far closer to what guys like Keith Pickens, Tarrance Crump, and Jason Owens experienced early Monday morning at the Show Me Center, as opposed to anything glamorous.

“There is zero doubt, in my mind,” Southeast Missouri State coach Rick Ray said, “that because of how these guys have ascended the coaching ladder, that they want to be coaches.”

Pickens joined the Redhawk program as a full-time assistant a year ago, while Ray added Crump a week ago to his staff. Owens came on board Monday and all three were assigned the not-so-glamorous task of teaching nine-year-olds the fundamentals of the sport – in front of zero fans – as the first day of the Southeast Missouri State Individual Camp got underway.

“You have to want to be a coach to go on some of the paths that they have been on,” Ray continued. “Because it is definitely not for the salary (and) it’s not for the glory.

“Those guys have proven that they want to be coaches.”

In the summer of 2016, Pickens was completing his second season as a graduate manager for his alma mater, Missouri State, while four years ago Crump was finishing his time as the assistant director of basketball operations at the University of California (he wasn’t even the TOP guy at that level for the Bears). That followed seasons in which Crump was an intern (at Tennessee), a middle school coach, and a women’s coach at a prep school.

As for Owens, he has worked a dozen seasons ranging from a junior college to NAIA to NCAA Division II and Division I.

“As a head coach,” Ray explained, “I am always taking notes on people when we have interactions with those guys because I don’t know anybody that is a good head coach or a good athletic director that doesn’t have a short list of guys that they want to interview in case something happens with somebody on their staff.”

That was the Case for Ray when he would “interact” with Owens.

The Detroit native climbed from Neosho County Community College to his alma mater (NAIA program Siena Heights), to Central Michigan to Moberly Area Community College before spending the past two seasons under former Missouri head coach Kim Anderson at Pittsburg State.

In each meeting with Ray, Owens was unofficially interviewing with Ray even though he didn’t realize it.

“He was such a selfless person,” Ray said of Owens. “He never had an agenda for himself. The only thing he truly cared about was trying to help out the student-athletes that he was involved with without any regard for himself.

“I was so impressed with that because in this day and age, in recruiting, that just doesn’t happen.”

Owens played for Siena Heights (Mich.), where he served as a two-year captain and later helped Moberly win 72 games in three seasons. During that time with the Greyhound program, Moberly won Region 16 and District 5 titles, as well as advanced to the NJCAA Sweet 16 in 2016.

"I'm definitely blessed to work with coach Ray and his staff," Owens said in a release. "I'm excited and thankful for this opportunity coach Ray has given to me. I am ready to roll up my sleeves and work hard to help make our guys and this program better every day."

Ray’s hiring of guys like Pickens, Crump, and Owens should not surprise anyone. None of the Redhawk student-athletes have been handed anything without working to earn it, so the coaching staff should reflect that diligence, as well.

Three years ago, Ray delivered a speech at a clinic where he explained that the ideal starting point for any aspiring coach would be as a graduate assistant at the NCAA Division II level. His point being was that at a lower level, more responsibility is heaped upon your shoulders, which benefits you in the long run.

“You are involved in scouting reports,” Ray said, “you are involved in day-to-day on the court activities, getting the chance to be involved in drills, and you get a chance to recruit.”

And in the case of the Southeast coaches, you can add teaching nine-year-olds to that list, as well.

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