Johnny Orr, Iowa State University men’s basketball coach from 1980-1994, joined the Cyclone Nation at a difficult time for the men’s basketball program; the team was struggling to maintain coaches and had not been to an NCAA tournament since 1944. Within four short seasons, Johnny Orr led Iowa State to the second round of the 1984 NCAA tournament against his former team and staff at the University of Michigan. Orr was the head coach at University of Michigan for 12 years and chose to leave for the struggling ISU program with a pay raise of $11,335. Bill Fieder, the 1984 Michigan head coach, served as Orr’s assistant coach in 1976 when the Wolverines progressed to the NCAA Final Four. Orr was more than excited to go up against his old colleague and stated that he was “sure when we get on the court together, we’ll have something to say to each other.”
On March 16, 1984, Iowa State defeated the University of Michigan, ranked 5th in the nation at that time, 72-69. Johnny Orr told the Des Moines Register that this was his “greatest victory ever as a coach,” even though he had 339 victories and sent a team to the Division 1 national championship. He later stated, “We took a program that couldn’t do anything. Everybody thought I was nutty. But now we’ve beat Michigan.”
Unfortunately, the Cyclones fell to North Carolina State in the next round, 70-66, and were knocked out of the tournament. After retiring from ISU men’s basketball after 14 years, Johnny Orr attended his very last Iowa State game November 17, 2013, once again beating Michigan 77-70.
For more information on ISU men’s basketball and Johnny Orr, come see the Men’s Basketball Media Guides, RS 24/5/0/6, and the Men’s Basketball Subject Files, RS 24/5/1, here at the Iowa State Special Collections and University Archives.