Former U-M Coaching Great Johnny Orr Passes Away
Johnny Orr

Dec. 31, 2013

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Former University of Michigan men's basketball coach Johnny Orr passed away today (Tuesday, Dec. 31) at the age of 86.

Orr was one of the nation's most successful basketball coaches during his 29-year head coaching career (1964-66, 1969-94). He compiled a 466-346 career coaching mark and led 10 teams to NCAA Tournament berths while at Massachusetts, Michigan and Iowa State.

In 1967, Johnny Orr inherited a Michigan club that finished last in the Big Ten, and within three years had the Wolverines in the NCAA Tournament. Orr led Michigan to Big Ten titles in 1974 and 1977, both seasons earning conference Coach of the Year honors. For four straight seasons (1974-77), Orr led Michigan teams to the NCAA Tournament, with his 1976 team losing in the final to Indiana.

Under Orr's tutelage, the 1977 club finished the season ranked first nationally by the AP and UPI polls. In 1976, the National Association of Basketball Coaches selected him Coach of the Year and in 1977, the Basketball Weekly also voted Orr Coach of the Year. During his tenure at Michigan, Orr helped develop the skills of Wolverine all-time greats Rudy Tomjanovich, Campy Russell, Rickey Green, Phil Hubbard and Mike McGee.

"The Michigan basketball program is saddened by the passing of Johnny Orr today," said U-M head coach John Beilein. "Johnny was a tremendous person and basketball coach. We will always value the many positives he brought to both the University of Michigan and college basketball in general. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Orr family during this time."

Orr left Michigan following the 1979-80 for Iowa State as U-M's all-time winningest coach in school history and still remains the Wolverines' leader with 209 career wins. Orr spent 14 years leading the Cyclones to a school-record six NCAA Tourney appearances and five 20-win seasons. Orr retired in 1994 as Iowa State's all-time winningest coach with a 218-200 record.

As a prep star, Orr led the state of Illinois in scoring and his team to a state title. Orr went on to play basketball and football for the University of Illinois for one year. After a brief stint in the Navy, Orr attended Beloit College, where he was twice named an All-American. Orr began his coaching career in the high school ranks but was quickly promoted to an assistant position with the University of Wisconsin. Orr's first head coaching position was with the University of Massachusetts, where he compiled a 39-33 record during his three years.

Orr is survived by his wife, Romie, and three daughters; Jennifer, Leslie and Rebecca. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Robin, who passed away in 2010. The Orrs have five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423

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