Johnny Orr - The Coach With The Most Wins in Wolverine Basketball History
When Johnny Orr resigned as the University of Michigan's head basketball coach in 1980, his teams had compiled the most wins, 209, and the most losses, 113, in the school's history. Orr, who died Dec. 31 at 86, was the longest tenured coach at UM, replacing Dave Strack in 1968 after a year as Strack's assistant. Orr, who had been a head coach at the University of Massachusetts, was a colorful and outspoken personality with a knack for motivating his players and winning the support of fans. In 1976 he took the Wolverines to the N.C.A.A. final against Big 10 rival Indiana University, losing to the Bobby Knight coached Hoosiers 86-68.
In 1980, Orr surprised the basketball community by leaving his position at Michigan for the head coaching job at the less-regarded Iowa State University. He said he took the job because Iowa State offered a substantial salary increase, $45,000 from $33,665 at Michigan, and more extra earning opportunities. Over the next 15 years, he took the Iowa State Cyclones to the N.C.A.A. tournament six times and set Iowa State records for wins and losses, 218-200.
In 1980 Orr was replaced at Michigan by his assistant, Bill Frieder, who would leave the University of Michigan in 1989 for a job at Arizona State University. His team, under his former assistant Steve Fisher, would win the 1989 N.C.A.A. national championship game against Seton Hall. Orr continued to have good relations with Michigan, returning to Crisler Arena for the first time as Cyclones coach in 1989. Orr retired from coaching in 1994 and continued to make his home in Iowa.