On anniversary weekend, former KU basketball coach and the artist who captures championships brush stroke by brush stroke reunite

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

Artist John Boyd Martin and former KU basketball coach Ted Owens view KU's championship basketball mural on Jan. 13, 2023.

Former KU men’s basketball coach Ted Owens remembers it all the time, but it had been a long while since he had seen it: Teammates hugging after winning the regional championship to advance to the 1971 Final Four.

“This tells it all,” Owens said on Friday, pointing to a mural of the scene that hangs in the hallway leading to the University of Kansas men’s basketball offices. “I call that brotherhood.”

He also called it a welcome sight. Owens was in town Friday in advance of Saturday’s mega celebration at Allen Fieldhouse to mark 125 years of men’s basketball at KU.

That 1971 Final Four was the first of two for teams coached by Owens. It also started something else: the tradition of painting a mural to commemorate when KU made it to a Final Four. It was Owens’ idea to paint murals to commemorate the 1971 and 1974 teams, and now it has become a bit of a tradition.

A team that makes it to the Final Four gets a mural the size of half a panel — about 3 feet by 4 feet — while a team that wins a national championship gets a full panel, so says Overland Park artist John Boyd Martin.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

Ted Owens, who coached at KU from 1964 to 1983, is pictured in the mural that hangs outside the KU basketball offices.

Martin was doing some marketing and promotions work for KU’s athletic department when Owens came up with the mural idea in the late 1970s. People knew that Martin was an accomplished artist and illustrator, and he got the task of painting the Owens murals.

They were the first, but certainly not the last. As you have perhaps heard, KU has been to 10 Final Fours since Owens’ last one, and has won three NCAA titles in that span.

Owens — who coached the Jayhawks from 1964 to 1983 — has been back to Allen Fieldhouse multiple times since then, but it usually has been for special events where his time here was heavily booked. He had never seen the murals since they had been added to or since they had been moved from outside a small space in the basketball office to the hallway.

On Friday, Martin made a point to make sure Owens saw it. Martin arranged for a viewing before Owens went in to watch Bill Self run the Jayhawks through a practice on Friday. Owens, now 93 and living in Tulsa, said it meant a lot to him to see the work.

“I could look at this all day,” he said.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

Ted Owens and John Boyd Martin stand next to the championship mural that lines the hallway leading to the KU Men’s Basketball office inside the office complex adjacent to Allen Fieldhouse.

Sometime later this year, there may be even more to see. As Martin roamed the halls on Friday, people were asking him if he is going to make another mural to commemorate the 2022 National Championship.

“I’m still standing,” Martin said.

He said he envisions the mural will be of the team holding the championship trophy, and he expects it to be completed before the end of the year.

Like Owens, Martin, 86, is cherishing each opportunity he gets to work on the project. He laughs about a remark he made to Self sometime after KU won the national championship in 2008.

“I said, ‘Hurry up and win another one. I’m not getting any younger,'” Martin said.

Consider that order filled. But don’t worry, KU fans, the one thing not filled is the hallway leading to the basketball office. It is about 60 feet long, and the mural only occupies about half of the hallway, at the moment.

In other words, there’s a lot more room for championships.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

John Boyd Martin on Jan. 13, 2023 points out details of a KU basketball mural that he has painted over the years since the late 1970s.


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