It was 25 years ago today, that Bo Schembechler declared "A Michigan Man will coach MIchigan!!" Bill Frieder was gone and six games later Brent Musberger was on the floor with Bo telling him that he had to hire Steve Fisher now.
What a legacy
Born in 1927, Johnny Orr grew up during the Great Depression(1929-WWII). His father was a coal miner. As a senior in high school, Orr would lead the Taylorville Tornadoes to the first undefeated season in the history of Illinois high school basketball.
Taylorville's #43 Johnny Orr
He played basketball, football, and baseball for the University of Illinois before joining the Navy for the tail end of WWII. Orr played a short stint for the pre-NBA(BAA) St. Louis Bombers and Waterloo Hawks before he started working his way up through the high school coaching and assistant coaching ranks. In 1963 Orr was selected as head coach at UMass(ytUMass) whom Orr led to a 39-33 record over 3 years. Shortly thereafter he was hired as an assistant by very sussessful University of Michigan head coach Dave Strack. In 1968 Strack’s attention turned towards the business end of basketball(he resigned as head coach), and Orr was named head coach.
That's Orr to the right of President Ford
In his twelve years as head coach at the University of Michigan, Orr amassed two Big Ten Championships,
Two Big Ten Coach of the Year Awards,
one Championship appearance (they lost to an undefeated Indiana team in ’76,
but the appearance earned Orr National Coach of the Year honors) and Michigan finished first in AP and UPI rankings the following year. Orr remains Michigan’s “winningest” coach with 209 wins and 113 losses(65%).
Then after the ’79 season, Orr got a call from Iowa State’s athletic director. The Cyclones had hit a tough patch(a very long one), and Iowa State’s beautiful 15,000 seat Hilton Coliseum
sat largely empty. They wanted to hire Orr’s assistant, Bill Frieder to lead them out of their 35 year tournament drought, and they were willing to break the bank to get him.
Orr and Frieder
Remember, son of a coal miner, grew up during the Great Depression. When Orr saw that they were going to pay Frieder $45,000 a year base salary(Orr was making $33k at Michigan) he decided to take the job himself. With radio and television shows and a basketball camp, Orr became the “highest paid college basketball coach in America”.
Orr turned a miserable Iowa State program into a respectable one, earning 6 NCAA Tournament births and 218 wins in his 14 years as Iowa State head coach. He coached several NBA players, namely Jeff Hornacek(of the Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz)
as well as Iowa State’s current coach, Fred Hoiberg.
Mostly, Orr brought excitement(and crowds) back to Ames, Iowa and the Hilton Colliseum. They have earned a reputation as giant killers on their own court(namely #3 Missouri in ’89,
a 39 game home winning streak ending in 02, and a 22 gamer ending last year) inspiring the term “Hilton Magic”. It’s widely considered to be one of the country’s toughest venues to win in.
Michigan will play in front of 15,000 at that very location taking on the Iowa State Cyclones on November 17. This will be Michigan’s first road game, and one monster test for Derrick Walton and the Michigan Wolverines as they move past the Trey Burke era.
When last we met: Two years ago Jordan Morgan exploded for 16 points on 7-10 shooting to defeat the cyclones 76-66 in Crisler Arena.
Hardaway had 19 points, Burke had 13, and Zack Novak pulled down 11 rebounds. Royce White(formally Houston Rockets and now Philadelphia 76’ers) went for 22 and 13, and Chris Allen(former Spartan) scored 11 points and dropped 5 dimes. Just for nostalgia’s sake, Evan Smotrycz had 8 points and 7 boards in 22 Minutes.
You are missed Evan.
Last year Iowa State defeated Notre Dame to advance to the 3’rd round of the NCAA tournament, losing by a last second Aaron Craft 3 pointer to Ohio State.
The Cyclones went 23-12(11-7 Big 12) beating #13 Oklahoma State and #11 Kansas State(both at home).
Exactly two of the players Michigan faced in 2011 are still on the team. 6-6 Forward Melvin Ejim played 19 Minutes against the maize and blue and went 0-5 with two turnovers.
Last year as a junior he nearly averaged a double double with 11 points and 9 rebounds.
6-1 Guard Bubu Palo played 14 minutes against Michigan and scored 4 points with 2 turnovers.
This was likely the high point of his career. He missed most of his redshirt sophomore year with a broken wrist, and most of his redshirt junior year while he was fighting sexual abuse charges(which were dropped).
All four of Iowa State’s guards(4 of their 6 core players) ran out of eligibility in the offseason. MSU castoff point guard Korie Lucious
They made Payne and Appling CAPTAINS…what could he possibly have done to get kicked off the team?
took his 10 points(6 of them from deep at 37%) and 6 assists to…Yeah, I don’t care either. How do all these guys end up at Iowa State anyway? At any rate, he gone. 6-7 guard Will Clyburn
(15pts 7rebounds). He gone. 6-2 sharp shooter Tyus McGee
(13 points, 9 of them from downtown at a ridiculous 46%). Gone. 6-5 lock down defender Chris Babb
(9pts, 6 of them from deep at 35%) You guessed it. Gone.
Aside from Mel Ejim, their only real returning contributor is 6-7 super sophomore forward
Georges Niang who kicked in 12 points and 5 boards as a rookie.
So how do they replace all that production? They start by robbing the mid-majors blind. Former Marshall star DeAndre Kane brings his 15 points and seven assists over from the Thundering Herd. Cyclone fans are hoping his shot selection has improved for his year of graduate school eligibility.
They also recruited a great four star 6-3 shooting guard named Matt Thomas.
He’s regarded as one of the best pure shooters in his class, and much like our own Nik he’s “not just a shooter”. Reportedly he has a good handle and passing skills too. They also brought in a couple of familiar faces. Four star 6-2 pure passing point guard Monte Morris
Why do I hear Sam Webb's voice every time I see his name?
out of Flint brings his great handle and iffy jumper to Ames. Three Star Detroit Pershing Doughboy(miss you Deshawn) 6-4 athlete Sherron Dorsey-Walker
comes off his redshirt season. Cyclone fans hope he is ready to drive and defend.
Michigan will obviously be breaking in some new players themselves. And Iowa State returns a lot of their rebounding from a squad that outperformed their opponents by 4 boards a game last year. But for Iowa State to defeat the Wolverines this year Matt Thomas is going to have to have the game of his life. Maybe they’ve had some shooters hiding on the bench these last few years, but from what I can tell they may have a hard time spreading the floor. With McGary, GRIII, Morgan, Horford and even Bielfeldt
this is the deepest, most talented and dynamic Michigan frontcourt we’ve seen since Chris and Juwan. I don’t know that the Cyclones will have an advantage at any position on the court. However, Iowa State remains a division 1 team with some young talent playing at home in one of the toughest venues in America so…
Prediction based on some notes I scribbled on a napkin:
Michigan 74, Iowa State 70
OF CHAMPIONS AND CHILDREN
Part One - Hoop memories
Time travel is possible.
In the spring, and, in the fall, especially.
As you drive north in the spring, as I do annually the first weekend in May, you go back in time. The foliage retreats into hibernation, the leaves disappear into buds into nothingness and the snow reappears, at first, in the sheltered areas, the northern exposed sides of the trees under the eternal canopy of pine branches.
It is six a. m. Monday April 7, 2013, and I am on the road south from Detroit to Kentucky to pick up my second oldest daughter, Erin, on the way to Atlanta to watch my school compete for the NCAA basketball championship.
As Erin works six days a week managing a horse barn for a large farm outside Lexington, we have a compressed timetable. Fortunately, Monday is her day off. When the game ends, we will have 5.5 hours of driving time to get back to Lexington, where she starts work at 7 a.m.. Pillows and sleeping bags are strewn across the back of the now back and middle seats removed mini-van for purposes of slumber.
Being self-employed, the boss gave me the OK to take the time off.
It has been 21 years since we were in the title game; if it takes another 21 years, I will be 80, and, perhaps, too, well, mature, for a road trip like this.
Erin is in her first year out of UK, which she attended over U of M because she loves, horses. But is still a huge Wolverine fan, having returned home for the Big Chill and the Under The Lights football game with Notre Dame, among other sporting events.
I have not seen her since Christmas, and am not sure when the next time will be, as she just started this job in February, so it may be awhile before she accrues any vacation time.
As I travel through the Worst State Ever, the flora turns greener, first buds, then leaves, then flowers, appear until we are a month and a half into the future, into the full bloom of spring in Atlanta.
The first four hours are shared with Sam on WTKA radio from Ann Arbor, via I Heart Radio on my iPhone sitting on the empty seat next to me. He is in Atlanta, and all the talk is about The Game to come. Well, and whether the Fab Five will re-unite in the stands. Sam has an interesting live interview with Jimmy King. Ahh, the memories flow.
I am becoming concerned with how many callers are on their way to Atlanta, like me, without tickets. I see Michigan plates with Wolverine insignia displayed, others with Michigan hats at gas stations and fast food places along the way. I did work my way through college hustling football tickets, so I figure I can come up with something. Friends are keeping their eyes peeled for me as well.
One suggested Craig's list, whose ads were cheaper than Stub Hub, so I posted my request on the Atlanta list.
I don't care where we sit; if I wanted the best view of the game, I would watch on TV at home. I did set the DVR.
Getting more fired up, and knowing the call lines to WTKA are usually not exactly backed up, I called in with my tale of travel to the title tilt.
In response to Sam's query: "how are you doing?" I answer: "If I were doing any better, I would have to sit on my hands to keep from clapping." Not hearing the chuckling reaction I expected, I asked if I were on the air, and assured, yes, I was. Well, I will cut him some slack; he must have been tired from all the Final Four festivities.
Sam's show ends at ten, so I flip around the car radio dial for another sports show. I stop at Dan Patrick's.
Today's poll question: “Should Chris Webber attend the game tonight?”
Geez, enough already! It seems this is a national issue? Somehow.
Weather was great, made good time into Lexington, found my daughter's residence without making a wrong turn. Which, for me, is good. Well, remarkable, actually.
Of course, she has wireless, so I check my email on my laptop, and find a response to my Craig's list ad, would I be interested in a pair? Wherever? You bet, I reply.
Ooops, just sold them, comes the response. Ahh, well.
Erin gets to drive to Atlanta, I rest some in the middle seat, but am just getting too damned excited, immersed in Michigan basketball.
Hey, Erin, what do you know about the Fab Five?
"Just that they were a bunch of really good players who came in and did not with the title and then there was some scandal."
Well, how do you feel about being stuck in a vehicle being subjected for hours to my memories of Michigan men's basketball?
She hesitates. "Well, if it is about sports, I don't mind."
. . . . . . . . . . .
I remember when only 16 teams played in the NCAA basketball tournament, with regional games on the MizLou network, or something. Not all the way back to Cazzie, but not too long after.
Back in the early 70s, lots of good teams went to the NIT, when ALL the games were in Madison Square Garden, so there was a definite New York tilt to the invites, and, most of the games were not televised in those benighted days before cable and ESPN.
One year, Al McGuire did not like the region assigned by the NCAA , and Marquette rejected the NCAA invite in order to play in the NIT.
They changed the rules after that one.
A bunch of us freshmen in Wenley House, West Quad, bought season basketball tickets for the 1972-73 season. They were so cheap I do not remember the price, for comparison, student season football tickets were $18 for 7 games. Yeah, I know, I am older than dirt.
I remember listening, no TV, of course, to Ohio at Michigan basektball the year before, but we lost the game, finished second in the conference. Unranked. We did get to the quarterfinals of the NIT.
The schedule was crowded with December games, around finals, it was a long, cold walk to Crisler, and I did not get student season tickets again.
We were supposed to be good that next year, but did not live up to expectations, tying for third at 9-5 and no post-season bid.
I was more of a hockey fan, though I only went to one game as a freshman, the last season at the Coliseum, which featured cyclone fencing instead of plexiglass. And an abysmal team.
I remember the 1973-74 hoop season, we were one game behind Indiana but looking like we had no chance, given the schedule as the season wound down.
Bobby Knight's Indiana had to play at Ohio, which was having a down year, though still coached by Eldon Miller, who had a national championship, which were yet in the future for Mr. Knight.
Lo and behold, Ohio pulled the upset, both Michigan and Indiana won the rest of their games, and finished in a first place tie.
Only the champ could go to the NCAAs, so a playoff ensued.
Guess where that game was played?
Showing that puzzling moves by the conference are nothing new, the Big Ten held the game on Monday night in Champaign, Illinois. I think there were over 10,000 there, but, not a sellout. Tough trip on a weeknight.
Another upset, Michigan wins!
I had to Wikipedia this, but there were 25 teams in the NCAA that year. Don't ask me how they worked it, but we got a bye, then upset Notre Dame before losing to Marquette in the regional final.
1975 - Big news! The tournament expands, and, for the first time, two teams from the same conference get bids. As with the 1975 football season, we finished second, but still got a post-season bid.
And were rewarded by getting to go to the West region in: Idaho? For what was called the UCLA regional, what with the NCAA still following (roughly) geographical lines in assigning teams to regions. Ergo, UCLA was always in the West. And this was still in the days when UCLA won everything. All the titles, and, it seemed, more often than not, all their regular season games as well.
We got them in the first game and were big underdogs. Nevertheless, we battled to the wire, and, with the game tied, C. J. Kupec launched a long jumper that, clanged off the rim as time expired.
We were smoked in OT, 12-2. UCLA went on to beat Louisville by one in the semis, and Kentucky by 7 in the final, for its tenth title in 12 seasons.
Knight had a great team, won every game, but lost to Kentucky in the regional final 92-90 after Scott May broke his arm.
1976 - Indiana wins all their regular season games, though eyewitnesses (again, no TV) to the Michigan game at Indiana swear the officials bad calls on the game ending play stole victory from Michigan.
I was announcing some hockey games for the student radio station WCBN, so I had a nice little blue card press pass for Yost. I wanted to check out the Hoosiers live, and, mirable dictu, I flashed the pass and they let me into the sold out game. (full disclosure: I have made up for this transgression with many athletic department donations since, and do not condone this sort of theft. anymore.)
I stood and watched Kent Benson go 14 for 17 in an easy Indiana victory. The Pistons thought he was a great player and made him a high draft choice. Turns out he was one of many players that Knight's system made look better than they were.
Michigan finished second in the conference, again, got a bid and made it to the Final Four. The only Final Four with two unbeaten teams. We pinned the first loss on undefeated Big Ten rival Rutgers to reach the title game against Indiana. Ahead at the half, tied with about ten minutes left, but lost by double digits to a clearly superior team.
It is improbable bordering on impossible for another team to go undefeated, so that 76 Indiana team will likely be the last.
Knight's comment? "It should have been two." meaning the 75 team should have won first.
Back in the day, all Big Ten hoop games were Thursday night and Saturday afternoon, maybe one or two a week Saturday night. Our traveling partner was MSU, so we would travel to Purdue and Illinois, the same weekend, and Purdue and Illinois would travel to Ann Arbor and East Lansing the same weekend.
Hockey was always Friday and Saturday night. Yost was as Canham found it; seating over 8,000 for hockey, though you could not see the entire rink from the top corners of the North end zone, and some other seats were obstructed.
We were the conference powerhouse in 76-77, beating Marquette at home in the last game, ranked firts in the final poll ahead of Georgetown and St. John's, the Big East powers who had been #1 most of the year.
On the Saturday when we hosted Northwestern hoop in the afternoon, the hockey team sold out for Michigan Tech Saturday night, and outdrew the basketball team.
We beat Holy Cross and Dick Vitale coached U of D, before being upset by Cornbread Maxwell of UNC Charlotte in the regional final.
In 1980-81, I was back to living in Ann Arbor, and got season tickets with a friend, in the blues, about 7 rows up in the corner.
We lost 7 of our last 8 to finish 7th, still won two preliminary NIT games, which were now being played outside New York.
The next year? Not a good team, not hard to get good seats. We trounced Northern Michigan to go 1-10 in the non-conference, upset a ranked Iowa team late in the year. Bill Frieder was just getting started.
We kept our tickets a few more years, had an NIT bid or two in there, until winning the NIT title over Notre Dame in 1984, the first tournament Michigan won outside the state borders. We used to host our own tournament in early December.
Then the 1985 Big Ten title, with a disappointing second game tournament loss, and the 1986 title, reminiscences of which I previously shared.
The 1988-89 title season is well remembered by all.
Steve Fisher and the miracle run.
Next year, again, we were supposed to be good, with most of the champs returning,
The big recruit nationally that year was Montross, who had U of M ties. He ended up at North Carolina, and the knock on Fisher was sure, he can coach, but he can't recruit. Yeah, right.
He let his players talk him into running with Loyola Marymount, coached by Paul Westhead, whose philosophy was, every seven seconds, shoot.
Their star player, Hank Gaithers, had died of a heart attack the week before, and we gave up a still record 137 points in losing.
Well, turns out ole Fisher could recruit after all.
TO BE CONTINUED
One of USA Today's sports cover stories today is all about the rebirth of the San Diego State backetball program, with Steve Fisher at the helm. It's a great read, mentions a bit about the Fab Five and also has quotes from Bill Frieder. I had no idea Frieder and Fisher were still such close friends...