I really didn’t know Johnny Orr. A few handshakes – at his statue dedication ceremony, a charity golf tournament and after a post-game media session – are what come to mind.
Any attempts to share personal insights into this legendary figure would be unworthy. But, it’s been awesome to read so many truly personal recollections from people like Hornacek, Hoiberg, Floyd, Vitale, etc. of this iconic man.
From a distance, I always felt that Johnny had it figured out better than any of us. It seemed that he knew the secret sauce.
When Johnny moved from Michigan to Iowa State in 1980, he probably said he wanted to deliver championships, play a fun style of ball, recruit the nation and help his players do well in school and the community. (I think he also said the pay raise was too good to pass up.)
Although all noble goals, I always felt Johnny enjoyed the entertainment aspect of his highly visible position as much as anything. Entertainment, in Johnny’s world, was the secret sauce.
Whether it was his entrance to Hilton with the “Tonight Show” theme blaring or baiting the referees or inserting a couple of “woo-wee, coach” phrases in his conversations/interviews, Johnny was entertaining.
College athletics is many things today. One thing we sometimes overlook, however, is that we’re in the entertainment business.
Johnny knew that many years ago. He never forgot that. Johnny was fun. Even in a quick handshake, he lifted your spirits and made you smile. I’m thankful that I had a couple of those handshakes.
After Tuesday’s win vs. Northern Illinois, Coach Fred Hoiberg summed it up simply: “The guy was an entertainer.”
Yes, Fred, he was. The basketball court was his stage and Johnny Orr was the best showman I’ve ever seen.