Johnny Orr (basketball, born 1927)

For other people named John Orr, see John Orr (disambiguation).
Johnny Orr

Orr from 1975 Michiganensian
Sport(s) Basketball
Biographical details
Born (1927-06-10)June 10, 1927
uncertain, see article for details
Died December 30, 2013(2013-12-30) (aged 86)
Des Moines, Iowa
Playing career
1944–1945 Illinois
1946–1949 Beloit
1949–1950 St. Louis Bombers
1949–1950 Waterloo Hawks
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1951–1959 Dubuque HS (IA)
1959–1963 Wisconsin (assistant)
1963–1966 UMass
1967–1968 Michigan (assistant)
1968–1980 Michigan
1980–1994 Iowa State
Head coaching record
Overall 466–346 (college)
Accomplishments and honors
Big Ten Coach of the Year (1974)
National Coach of the Year (1976)
100 Legends of the IHSA Boys Basketball Tournament (2007)

John Michael "Johnny" Orr (June 10, 1927 – December 30, 2013) was an American basketball player and coach, best known as the head coach of men's basketball at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of Michigan, and at Iowa State University.

Early life and playing career

Orr was born in Taylorville, Illinois or Yale, Kansas[1][2][3][4] and grew up in Taylorville during the Great Depression. Orr attended Taylorville High School under coach Dolph Stanley and in his senior year (1944) led the Tornadoes to a state championship and a 45–0 record, the first team to ever finish a season undefeated in the Illinois High School Association's history.[5] In 2007, Orr was voted one of the "100 Legends of the IHSA Boys Basketball Tournament," recognizing his superior performance in his appearance in the tournament.[6] After high school Orr went to the University of Illinois and was the youngest freshman to compete in three sports. After joining the United States Navy for the end of World War II, Orr returned to the college game at Beloit College. This reunited him with his high school coach Dolph Stanley, who had come to Beloit College as athletic director, head basketball and football coach.[7]

Orr was initially drafted in 1948 BAA draft by the Minneapolis Lakers of the Basketball Association of America, the precursor to the NBA. Orr did not play for the Lakers, and was again drafted the next year in the 2nd round by the St. Louis Bombers. In 1950, Orr played 21 games for the Bombers before moving to the Waterloo Hawks for 13 more games.

Coaching career

In 1951, Orr was the head coach at Dubuque Senior High School in Dubuque, Iowa.[7] He later became an assistant coach at Wisconsin.


Orr attained his first head coaching position in 1963 at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, commonly known as UMass, and guided the team to 15–9 record in 1963–64.[7]


Shortly afterward, Orr moved to the University of Michigan as an assistant under Dave Strack, and was named head coach in 1969. His 1973–74 team made it to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament and Orr was named Big Ten Coach of the Year. In 1976, Michigan was the NCAA tournament runner-up (to the undefeated Indiana Hoosiers) and Orr was named National Coach of the Year. Orr remains the winningest coach in Michigan history with 209 wins and 113 losses.

Iowa State

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. In Orr's fifth season in Ames, he led the Cyclones to their first NCAA Tournament berth in 40 years. The following season, Orr's Cyclones reached the Sweet Sixteen of the 1986 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament with a second round victory over the number five ranked team in the nation, Michigan. Orr claims this was the greatest victory of his career. Orr led Iowa State to four more NCAA tournament berths before retiring from Iowa State in 1994. He remains the winningest coach in Iowa State history with 218 wins and 200 losses.


Orr died on December 30, 2013 at the age of 86 at Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines.[8][9] Orr's death came from complications of a head injury suffered during a fall at his residence.[10]

Head coaching record


Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
UMass Redmen (Yankee Conference) (1963–1966)
1963–64 UMass 15–9 5–5 3rd
1964–65 UMass 13–11 8–2 2nd
1965–66 UMass 11–13 5–5 3rd
UMass: 39–33 18–12
Michigan Wolverines (Big Ten Conference) (1968–1980)
1968–69 Michigan 13–11 7–7 4th
1969–70 Michigan 10–14 5–9 T–6th
1970–71 Michigan 19–7 12–2 2nd NIT Quarterfinals
1971–72 Michigan 14–10 9–5 T–3rd
1972–73 Michigan 13–11 6–8 T–6th
1973–74 Michigan 22–5 12–2 T–1st NCAA Elite Eight
1974–75 Michigan 19–8 12–6 2nd
1975–76 Michigan 25–7 14–4 2nd NCAA Runner-Up
1976–77 Michigan 26–4 16–2 1st NCAA Elite Eight
1977–78 Michigan 16–11 11–7 T–4th
1978–79 Michigan 15–12 8–10 6th
1979–80 Michigan 17–13 8–10 T–6th NIT 3rd Round
Michigan: 209–113 120–72
Iowa State Cyclones (Big Eight Conference) (1980–1994)
1980–81 Iowa State 9–18 2–12 8th
1981–82 Iowa State 10–17 5–9 6th
1982–83 Iowa State 13–15 5–9 5th
1983–84 Iowa State 16–13 6–8 T–4th NIT 1st Round
1984–85 Iowa State 21–13 7–7 T–3rd NCAA 1st Round
1985–86 Iowa State 22–11 9–5 2nd NCAA Sweet 16
1986–87 Iowa State 13–15 5–9 6th
1987–88 Iowa State 20–12 6–8 5th NCAA 1st Round
1988–89 Iowa State 17–12 7–7 T–4th NCAA 1st Round
1989–90 Iowa State 10–18 4–10 6th
1990–91 Iowa State 12–19 6–8 5th
1991–92 Iowa State 21–13 5–9 T–6th NCAA 2nd Round
1992–93 Iowa State 20–11 8–6 T–2nd NCAA 1st Round
1993–94 Iowa State 14–13 4–10 T–6th
Iowa State: 218–200 79–117
Total: 466–346

      National champion         Postseason invitational champion  
      Conference regular season champion         Conference regular season and conference tournament champion
      Division regular season champion       Division regular season and conference tournament champion
      Conference tournament champion


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