Happy Osborne was hooked on basketball at a young age. While Happy was in the second grade, his father, Robert Happy Osborne Sr., led the small Williamstown High School in northern Kentucky to an unlikely district championship in 1964. Then just 7 years old, Happy recalls the bus ride home with that championship trophy and the feeling of an entire town showing support as they greeted the bus rolling back into town.
“I even got thrown in the shower,” Osborne said. “It was awesome.”
It was that same feeling that Happy looked for when considering the head coaching position for men’s basketball at Kentucky Wesleyan College. When approached with the job, Happy wanted “24 to 48 hours of true Owensboro” before he made his decision. He and wife Bobbi made the visit and were impressed with what they saw.
“For what’s been done here without any interstates is incredible,” Osborne said. “There is so much to do. I like that it’s big and little – enough to keep you occupied socially, culturally… It’s obvious this town is thriving.”
“I like to live where people know your name,” Osborne continued. “It’s not home unless you have friends.”
After discovering Owensboro was somewhere he would like to live, Osborne, 55, said two things influenced his decision to accept the men’s basketball head coaching position: he wanted to coach college again and he saw the tremendous opportunity for growth at KWC to “accomplish things that have never been accomplished.”
And on April 22, 2013, Happy Osborne was named the 22nd head men’s basketball coach at KWC, an eight-time NCAA Division II Champion.
“Kentucky Wesleyan College has the most tradition in NCAA Division II basketball,” Osborne said. “I have the opportunity to take this team to the level it was before.”
Previous Coach, Todd Lee, accepted a position as associate head coach at Grand Canyon University after eight years at KWC. According to an April article of the Messenger-Inquirer, “[Lee] resurrected a program that was hit with NCAA violations that resulted in a loss of scholarships.” This history, combined with the near move to NCAA Division III, could have affected the KWC Men’s Basketball program, but its dedicated fan base and long-standing tradition keeps this program going.
“I like that challenge,” Osborne said. “It inspires me every day.”
As for his coaching, Happy says there is nothing unique about it. He says he wants his players to be aggressive, but still have fun.
“They’re not perfect,” Osborne said. “I’m not perfect. But it’s fun coaching when you enjoy being around your guys.”
Happy may say his coaching is not unique, but he is certainly doing something right. He coached at Georgetown College for 31 years – 16 years as assistant coach and 15 years as head coach. During his time as head coach, he led Georgetown to one NAIA Championship (1998), one national runner-up (2000), four Fab Four appearances (2003, 2004, 2008, 2011), one final eight appearance (2005) and five Sweet Sixteen appearances (1997, 1999, 2001, 2002). He accumulated a 456-84 record, and won 12 regular-season titles and eight conference tournament titles. Osborne has won the most tournament games of any coach in NAIA basketball history.
Although time spent on the court is crucial for his team, Happy believes it is also just as important to be involved in the community. In May, Coach Osborne and his staff served at the Daniel Pitino Shelter. His players have also taken time away from practice to work with children with Down’s Syndrome, teaching them to ride bikes.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Osborne said. “We want our team to be the community’s team. And honestly, I think [helping others] gave more to us than we did to them.”
With 28 games in the 2013-2014 season, there will be plenty of opportunities for the Owensboro community to show support to the KWC Men’s Basketball team. In the first home game, KWC will take on Quincy University at The Owensboro Sportscenter at 7:30 p.m. on November 8.
Coach Osborne encourages the community to become involved in KWC athletics. He said that in a time where a family can watch sports 24 hours a day on television, it can be difficult to attract the community to come to a live game.
“I want this community to feel welcome to come to campus, my office, practices, games,” Osborne said. “Be around. We can be the kind of team you enjoy watching, and you can get involved with our players.”
It seems as though Happy Osborne has found a community and a home in Owensboro and with Kentucky Wesleyan College.
In a press conference announcing his acceptance of the position, Happy said, “I am excited and humbled to be the head coach of the most successful and storied NCAA Division II basketball program in America. When you say Kentucky Wesleyan College, that’s says it all.”
- Happy Osborne has won 100 games and 400 games quicker than any other coach.
- He has won the most tournament games of any coach in NAIA basketball history.
- While at Georgetown, Osborne had a .844 winning percentage, an average of 30.4 wins per season.
- He is the NAIA National Coach of the Year and Basketball Times National Coach of the Year Award in 1998.
- Osborne coached 14 All-Americans honored 22 times and 40 All-Mid-South Conference selections including five Players of the Year and one Freshman of the Year.