Owens' son, Teddy, now 29, was just a boy that year in Fresno. Teddy latched onto Brooks. Made Brooks his favorite player. Collected Brooks' bubble-gum cards over the years.
The Owenses followed Brooks' career, saw him on occasion and were thrilled when the Thunder landed in OKC three summers ago with Brooks in tow as assistant coach. A few months later, Brooks was elevated to head coach.
“I knew when they made a change, if Scotty could get his team to play as hard as he did, with passion and commitment, he'd do well,” Owens said.
Owens said he gets down for 7-10 games a year. Brooks has had Owens speak to the Thunder staff.
“He coached the way you wanted to be treated as a man,” Brooks said. “Fair. Respectful. Great human being.”
One grew up in the Dust Bowl of southwestern Oklahoma. The other, 40 years later, in Northern California. But their experiences were not so dissimilar.
Brooks has talked of slipping into the Lathrop, Calif., recreation center to shoot baskets at night, a gymnasium that last week was renamed in his honor. Owens left windows open in the old Hollis gym so he could slip in during the summers and keep his vow of making 500 baskets a day.
Owens pulled cotton in the Harmon County fields. Brooks and his single-parent family gathered walnuts to supplement the family income; years later, Brooks still had walnut-stained hands.
Now basketball has brought them together again.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.