December 31st, 2013 at 12:35 PM ^

Orr was the coach of the BBall team when I was in school (78-81) and we had teams similar to Amaker's in that they were good but just not good enough to make the tourny.  One of my fraternity brothers was the team manager in 80 & 81 and I got to spend a fair amount of time around the team those years as many of them were my friends.  Orr was a real good guy.

Near the end of Orr's tenure all of us were convinced that the guy to his right in this picture did all the "real coaching" and that Orr was just a figurehead.

Boy were we wrong.  RIP Johnny.  

Section 1

December 31st, 2013 at 1:00 PM ^

I was lucky enough to have met Orr at Michigan basketball camps as a schoolboy.  What a great guy.  And a truly great head coach.

He'll be forever one of the most underrated and most interesting people in Michigan basketball history.

Interesting, and controversial, in that he was the bridge between Dave Strack and Bill Frieder.  I never gave much thought to how many NCAA bids that Orr's teams might have gotten; because in those days getting to the NCAA's was like getting to the Rose Bowl.  It wasn't anything that anybody thought would be automatic.  Only 20 or 30 teams made it to the NCAAs when Orr was our coach.

Interesting, and controversial, in that he was one of the only head coaches of any revenue sport in the history of the University of Michigan who said buhbye to Michigan, to take a better deal at another school.  Can anyone think of another one of our head coaches who did the same?

A non-footnoted paragraph from Orr's Wikipedia page (I can't vouch for any sources, but this story was pretty widely known at the time and isn't much doubted):


Orr joined the Iowa State Cyclones in 1980. The move came about when the Iowa State Athletic Director called him to inquire about Orr's assistant, Bill Frieder. When Orr learned how much Iowa State was willing to pay Frieder, Orr negotiated the job for himself (Frieder then succeeded Orr at Michigan).


A nice article on Orr's passing from the Des Moines Register:

San Diego Mick

December 31st, 2013 at 3:40 PM ^

But yeah, man, Orr was the coach when I fell in love with U-M sports, Football and BBall especially. I loved his teams, we were exciting and quick, well coached and only a juggarnaut program from Indiana kept us from winning it all. I missed him when he left, Frieder always seemed whiny to me and didn't command the respect he should have gotten as an M coach.

We didn't go to the NCAA's because Hubbard got hurt and then went to the pros and was replaced with guys like Paul Huermann, et al. It wasn't till Frieder really kickstarted his recruiting and we started getting guys like McCormick and Joubert that we became a mainstay in the tourney again after a tough 3 or 4 years.

I remember going to the Silverdome and we upset ND, what a game, I remember hearing Blondie for the first time on the way to the game too, ah the younger days....


RIP Johnny, you'll be missed


December 31st, 2013 at 12:56 PM ^

I remember the 1970-71 season.  Michigan was something like 12-2 in the Big Ten and finished second to Ohio at 13-1. Michigan and Ohio split their home-and-home, but Michigan had the misfortune to draw Iowa in Iowa City.  Back then, a second place finish was good enough to get you an NIT bid. That season essentially re-started the Michigan basketball program which had suffered after Cazzie and Dave Strack left. The resurgence continued through Tractor Traylor and until the scandals put Michigan on umpteen years of probation and a decade in the NCAA wilderness.


December 31st, 2013 at 2:34 PM ^

Of "hanging" out with Johnny Orr and Bill Frieder at Miller's Ice Cream (Shoppe) on South U and Forest when I was a wee young lad. He (Orr) always seemed to have time for me, I guess that was just the kind of guy he was. RIP Mr Orr!

True Blue Grit

December 31st, 2013 at 2:45 PM ^

J.O. was the coach of Michigan when I started following M-basketball when I was still in high school.  Those two years starting in 1975 and ending in the tournament in 1977 were special.  These two teams had such great chemistry and toughness.  RIP Johnny.


December 31st, 2013 at 3:45 PM ^

the start of the '75-76 season, Johnny said " If we go 7-0 to start  this season, we're gonna win it all."  They went 6-1, losing only to Tennessee on the road, and lost to IU in the NC game.  Incredible season, incredible tourney.  Loved Johnny!!

rob f

January 4th, 2014 at 8:00 PM ^

the news of Johnny Orr passing away earlier this week.  I guess that's what happens when I fail to visit MGoBlog for 3 straight days...

RIP to one of the most interesting and colorful characters to ever coach a "revenue" sport at Michigan.  While Bo ignited my love for Michigan Football by the sheer brilliance of his intensity, Orr got me to pay attention to a sport that, up until then, had barely shown up on my radar. 

I never really warmed up to Bill Frieder when he took over Michigan Basketball.  Orr had one helluva a run at Michigan thru much of the 70's and when he left Michigan for ISU, I was really disappointed in Don Canham for having not found a way to keep Orr.

What really surprises me, though, is that so few here on the Blog paid any attention to the passing of Orr.