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Posted on Sat, Jan 22, 2011 : 8:16 a.m.

Former Michigan coach Johnny Orr being honored today, still watches Michigan

By Michael Rothstein

Former Michigan basketball coach Johnny Orr will be one of six people recognized for induction into Michigan's Hall of Honor during halftime of tonight's 7 p.m. basketball game against Minnesota.

Orr will not be in attendance. Instead he'll be represented by one of his best players, Wayman Britt.

Orr is Michigan's all-time winningest (209-113) and longest-tenured basketball coach, spending 12 seasons in Ann Arbor. Between 1968 and 1980, he led the Wolverines to the NCAA title game in 1976 and coached the first men's basketball game in Crisler Arena.

Current Michigan coach John Beilein said part of his current offense stems from Orr's playbook.

"I’ve talked to Johnny once or twice a year since I’ve been here and some of his two-guard action is some of the things we've done," Beilein said. "Dana Altman has been running the same things at Creighton and now at Oregon. ... Grand Valley State runs his offense.

"He’s had a great effect on a lot of coaches."'s Michael Rothstein caught up with Orr via telephone from Florida on Friday. He discussed his time at Michigan and the honor:

Michael Rothstein: When you found out you were going to be honored, what was your reaction? Your feelings?

Johnny Orr: “I’m honored. I was really surprised when I heard from (athletic director) David (Brandon). I really appreciate everything they are doing for me.”

MR: Did you start to reflect on your time here?

JO: “Oh, I had a great time there. I had great teams, great coaches, great fans and great bosses. Everything about Michigan, I loved it.”

MR: Did anything stick out? Is there one memory above the others?

JO: “Oh, I have a lot of memories. Going to Philadelphia for the Final Four, beating Rutgers when they were undefeated and then Indiana, two Big Ten teams in the finals, winning the Big Ten championship, that was big a couple times. Then all my players, I had great players there.”

MR: What do you remember from that national title game against Indiana? Does that feel like something pretty fresh?

JO: “Oh yeah, I remember we led at the half. We got one of their best players, a good player got hurt. They brought in a substitute and he played a heck of a game. He was unselfish, fed (Scott) May and (Kent) Benson the whole time. He didn’t try to score himself. And then they beat us. It was a heck of an experience, yes it was.”

MR: What have you been up to the past few years?

JO: “Well, I live in West Des Moines, Iowa in the summertime and I live in Florida in the wintertime. I’m a spokesperson for a company called INS, Iowa Network Services, and I travel all around the state, play in their golf outings, open houses, anniversaries, talk to people. It’s a good job and I enjoy doing it and they are very good to me.”

MR: Did you ever think you’d be doing that?

JO: “Oh no, I never dreamed I’d do those things, no I didn’t. And I would have never had left Michigan had I gotten more money.”

MR: You mention that, is that something where you would have spent 30, 40 years here if that hadn’t happened?

JO: “I think if I would have stayed at Michigan, I would have won 1,000 games because I was winning 20 every year and I was disappointed when they wouldn’t give me more, but when Iowa State came along and offered me a lot more money, I had to take it. I had a great time at Iowa State, too. They just built a statue of me out there, put it in the gym where we played. It was beautiful. Ten days ago, they flew me back.”

MR: Is this kind of weird for you in some ways that you’re being honored? Like man, that means I’m old.

JO: “(Laughs) Yeah, it is. I’m glad they’re doing it before I die. (Laughs) So I can enjoy it. I really enjoy it and I appreciate it, I really appreciate it so much I can’t tell ya. I’m tickled to death they are doing it for me.”

MR: Do you watch much of Michigan this year?

JO: “I watch them every time they are on TV. Sure I do. I pull for ‘em, man. John Beilein, he’s been wonderful to me, just super to me. I wish him nothing but the very best.”

MR: When you’re watching games now do you sit back or are you yelling at the TV?

JO: “I get into it pretty good. I don’t yell at it but I’m really interested in it and any time they are on, I have the TV on.”

Michael Rothstein covers Michigan basketball for He can be reached at (734) 623-2558, by e-mail at or follow along on Twitter @mikerothstein.



Sat, Jan 22, 2011 : 4:42 p.m.

I was a student at Michigan during much of Johnny Orr's coaching tenuar. I always that that Orr was a bit of a bafoon. The head coach should have been Fred Snowden, but Michigan wasn't readdy for a black coach in 1968. The one thing tbalt Johnny Orr did was hire great assistant coaches. First there was Fred Snowden. Fred could have made a winner out of a group of one armed, one legged, short people. Any one rember"Bird" Carter. When Fred left Orr gor Jim Dutcher. If you look the word class in the dictoray his picture show appear. Jim had been the coach of Eastern Michigan and made them a perennial NAIA championship team. At look at what he did after he left Michigan. He went to Minnesota and took a team on probation to the Ncaa championships. If anyone show be there for the award it should be Fred Snowden and Jim Dutcher.


Sat, Jan 22, 2011 : 3:18 p.m.

Johnny Orr is a class guy. Imagine if Canham would have bucked up. Michigan could have been an elite program on par with Duke, Kansas, NC, Kentucky, and UCLA.