Johnny Orr, who passed away on New Year’s Eve, is a Cyclone legend in every sense of the word. It can be said that many would argue that he is the best loved and most respected figure in Iowa State University history. Orr came to Iowa State from the University of Michigan in 1980 and resurrected a basketball program that had not been invited to play in the postseason since the 1940s. His Cyclone teams slowly improved until, in his fourth season, Iowa State finished with a 16-13 record and an invitation to play in the NIT, reaching the quarterfinals. By 1986, Iowa State had competed in its second consecutive NCAA tournament, reaching the Sweet 16 for the first time in modern history. Orr led Iowa State to six NCAA tournament appearances and five 20+ win seasons during his tenure.
“Hilton Magic” is a phrase that was coined during Johnny Orr’s coaching days. The game atmosphere in Hilton Coliseum became known far and wide as one of the most intimidating in the country. The Hilton crowds became an effective “sixth man” on the court. Opponents that were highly ranked often left Hilton with a loss after dealing with noise from fans cheering so loudly that the hoop rims and floor would vibrate. Hilton Magic simply would not exist today without Johnny Orr. Every shred of success and every high expectation was set because of how he built his program and fan base.
The Special Collections Department has materials that will allow you to revisit the career of Johnny Orr as Iowa State’s head men’s basketball coach. The University Archives has a collection of news clippings about Johnny Orr ( RS 24/3/13), and there are also media guides, game-day programs, photographs, and newspaper articles in the men’s basketball records series (RS 24/5). All of these are available for viewing in the Special Collections Department’s Reading Room. We also have a selection of images of Johnny Orr available on Flickr under the set “Athletics – Coaches.”
Post written by: Matt Schuler, Library Assistant