Wednesday, January 01, 2014

17 November 2013: Johnny Orr’s Final Visit To Hilton Coliseum

Johnny Orr, onetime basketball coach first at Michigan and then at Iowa State, takes the floor at Hilton Coliseum in Ames on November 17, 2013, alongside the current Iowa State coach, Fred Hoiberg. The occasion: an Iowa State/Michigan game, a game Iowa State won.

Regarding Iowa State and Michigan, there was no doubt where Orr’s loyalties resided: he became a Cyclone for life from the day he took the Iowa State job in 1980.

Hoiberg, an All-American at Iowa State two years running in the early 1990s, played for Orr and absolutely worshipped the man. After a lengthy pro career (that included several years in Minneapolis first as player for and then as member of management of the Timberwolves), Hoiberg himself turned to coaching. Hoiberg is now in his fourth year as coach at his alma mater, holding down Orr’s old job.

Hoiberg was born and raised in Ames, and his parents still live there. As a consequence, Hoiberg’s popularity in the city has long been at adoration levels. During his playing days, Hoiberg received numerous write-in votes in an election for the Ames mayoralty—which is how Hoiberg acquired his nickname, “The Mayor”.

Of course, Orr was wildly popular in Ames, too. Orr turned around a moribund program, and became a legend in his own lifetime. As soon as Orr arrived in Ames, Hilton Coliseum, America’s most beautiful basketball arena, began selling out every game every season. Hilton Coliseum continued to sell out well past Orr’s 1994 retirement.

Orr died yesterday.

May he rest in peace.

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