SAN DIEGO — Bobby Owens has quit the San Diego State basketball team, feeling left out because Coach Smokey Gaines was removing him from the starting lineup.
At a team meeting Monday, senior guards Creon Dorsey and Owens were told they would be replaced by freshmen in Thursday night's game at Wyoming. Owens left the team between the meeting room and practice floor, never to return.
"The way I felt, Smokey was coming across to me like we were going with a youth movement," Owens said. "I didn't feel like I would be getting very much playing time. I felt I could use my time better by going to school and finishing up."
Owens, who will be 32 units short of graduating after this semester, was five regular-season games away from finishing his fourth season with the Aztecs. However, Owens said "a lot of things came about" after Saturday's 59-58 loss to Utah that led to his decision.
Though Owens would not elaborate, he was obviously upset when Gaines talked to him after Saturday's game about a lack of production. Owens was also criticized at Monday's team meeting for making 10 of 40 field goal attempts in his last six games.
"Smokey was pointing out my statistics, especially my shooting statistics, at the meeting," Owens said. "I know I'm in a shooting slump and was trying to work my way out of it. I usually hit six or seven straight to get of a slump. It was just a matter of time."
Gaines said he was only trying to "rectify mistakes" by pointing out Owens' shortcomings.
"When it gets to a point where a young man can't take criticism, what can you say?" Gaines asked. "I think Bobby is basically a good kid. He gets upset with himself at times. I think he is throwing four years down the drain, to tell you the truth."
The Aztecs, 7-15, had lost their first six games before Owens was inserted into the starting lineup. He was averaging 7 points and 4.1 assists.
After Owens left the team Monday, he did not speak to teammates or Gaines. When interviewed outside of his campus dormitory Tuesday afternoon, Owens said he planned to speak with teammate Anthony Watson in the evening.
Though Owens was upset about the youth movement, Dorsey said it was "probably a good idea." Before attending class late Tuesday afternoon, Dorsey said he was surprised that he had not been contacted by Owens.
"That's strange because we're such good friends on and off the court," Dorsey said. "Something like this hurts the whole team. Bobby listens well and plays in a team concept. He's a real strong person who is quiet. The only time he laughs or smiles is when you're joking with him."
In recent weeks, Owens had not been smiling much. He fell into disfavor with Gaines during an 87-81 win over Wyoming 2 1/2 weeks ago and was benched for three-quarters of the game. However, Owens returned to make a game-winning steal and layup.
Owens was 1 for 5 the next game against Colorado State and 0 for 5 at Air Force the following night. He was 3 for 8 against Brigham Young and 2 for 6 against Utah in home losses last week.
Then came more harsh words from Gaines.
"He's a hard coach to play for," Owens said. "He's so aggressive, and he expects his players to be aggressive. Some of his ballplayers couldn't relate to his philosophy and had to leave. I'm through. This is it for me."
Said Gaines: "I'm an aggressive person, period. I'm no chair thrower. I think I'm very fair. I don't hold any grudges."
Owens is the sixth player to leave SDSU's team in the past two years. Others were David Grissom, Ira Harge, Mike Haupt, Tod Monteiro and Anthony Sands from 1984-85.
"We won 23 games last year," Gaines said. "The guys who left didn't get much playing time. It's happening all over the country. When kids don't play a lot, they leave."