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Norm Stewart interview on former ISU coach Orr

Posted on: November 9, 2018 at 09:25:47 CT
FIJItiger MU
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Many people know ‘Stormin’ Norm Stewart for his 32 years as the Missouri Tigers head coach (1967-99), however most don’t know that Stewart actually began his head coaching career in Cedar Falls coaching the University of Northern Iowa (1961-67). It’s common knowledge that Johnny left perennial Big Ten power Michigan to take the Iowa State head coaching position in 1980. However, when his 1980-81 Cyclones took the floor to face Missouri later that season, it wasn’t the first time these two coaches faced off against one another.

“Unfortunately I did know Johnny before he took the Iowa State job,” Stewart said over the phone. “His Michigan team had just beaten us a few years prior in the NCAA tournament which cost us a trip to the Final Four. But we had a good relationship from the start. His wife, Romie, was a graduate of Missouri and that earned him some points with us right away.”

Before Orr took the position, Iowa State hadn’t had much luck against Missouri. But a 73-72 overtime victory at home against a top 10 Missouri program was not only Orr’s first victory over Stewart but sparked Hilton Coliseum.

“Barry Stevens was a heck of player,” Stewart said. “He’d beaten us a few times, and as I can recall he beat us on a last second shot in the Hearnes Center. I don’t recall that game in 1983 in particular but we brought a lot of good teams to Hilton and lost.”

•The atmosphere inside Hilton before and after Orr’s arrival:

“Iowa State wasn’t that good of a team before Johnny took over the program,” Stewart said. “However, to go into Hilton Coliseum and hear the band strike up Here’s Johnny when he came out, it was fun to watch. For some reason we always played well up there. It was always a heck of a game and hard fought. When Johnny would bring his teams to Columbia, he was one of the few guys who had some success and beat us at our place too.

”That Here’s Johnny routine really got the crowd going when he came out and when they started having more success and winning, Hilton became a very difficult place to play. More people got behind the program when he took the job and started showing up at the games and helped them win a lot of games.”

Sometimes you just have to sit back and listen. It’s at this time in the interview I sat back and let the tape recorder do its work. Below is Stewart’s stream of consciousness.

“Johnny, myself, Lon Kruger and Stan Albeck used to play golf quite a bit in those days. Johnny was the best player within our foursome with Kruger second and Albeck and myself as the dirt guys. I’d be paired with Kruger more often than not and we would win. (Laughs) It’s funny because Johnny would get so made at Albeck. It was just fun things like that. We always had a good time.

There are probably millions of stories I could tell, but most of the time it wasn’t any individual story that sticks out in my mind, but all the fun that happened.

I’ll tell you though, the team they could really beat in those days was Kansas. Here is a great story. Iowa State had a stretch of beating Kansas in Ames. They’d play in Lawrence and he’d get beaten. The first time he played Roy Williams, Roy had a substitute routine. And you might get his best five players at the end of the game because Roy was going to stick to his routine. This particular game in Kansas he’s beating Johnny and it’s not close. It’s an ass-kicking. And in comes the starting five back into the game during the last two minutes (laughs). Johnny went down to Roy after the game and says (Johnny impression in a high squeaky voice) “God Damn Roy! Are you on a one-year contract here or what?” And then of course he’d come back and beat ‘ole Roy in Ames the next time.

I can recall another time when we were ranked No. 1 in the country, and whatever team we played before heading up to Iowa State held the ball on us. In that time there wasn’t a shot clock, you know. We were ahead 28-4 or something like that and the other team held the ball so we wouldn’t blow them out. Our next game was in Ames and I read in the paper (laughs trying to do his best Johnny impression), I’m not going to hold the damn ball I’ll guarantee you that! Well to open the game, we hit the first 6 or 7 shots and we had them down and eventually won. After the game (laughs) Johnny (again in his best Johnny impression) At least we didn’t hold onto the damn ball! He just had that great spirit that could never be replicated.

“Every one of those [Big Eight coaches] were competitors! A lot of people probably don’t know, but we would go to each other’s home before and after the game on the road. Or we’d go on a trip after the season.

Abe Lemons (former Texas head coach) said it best when he told me that when we used to coach, we used to have a lot of fun, but didn’t make any money. Now coaches are making a lot of money but I don’t know if they are making any fun. When I first started coaching in Missouri I made $14,000 a year. My good friend Bob Boyd who coached at USC made $15,000, so we weren’t making a lot of money. We thought Johnny struck gold when he signed on with Iowa State for $43,000.

As close as we all were, I hadn’t seen Johnny in a while. I speak with (former Oklahoma head coach) Billy Tubbs once in a while, at least once a year. We always laugh because we feel like if Billy, Johnny or myself were coaching now as opposed to those times, we would have been fired at least two-three times. We weren’t exactly politically correct in those days. We could get technicals, throw water on the floor to stop the game when you were out of time outs, anything.

Poor John Erickson, who directed the Big Eight Conference at one time, had to take weekly calls from Tubbs, Orr and myself complaining about the officials. Erickson used to head up the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and every time one of us would call, I would assume after that call was over he’d have to pray for the next five days. We really lit into him.

I was shocked (to hear about Orr’s death). I was with my wife, and we all knew one another of course. It sure makes you think. The first thing I thought about was all the fun we had together. He was fun to be with and one hell of a funny guy. So I started to think about all those moments, and then a few games we played. I can still see him chasing a referee on the sideline. (Laughs) I’d love to tell him that if he didn’t have [former Big Eight official Ron Spitler] on his side, he wouldn’t have won a game. Spitler was a hell of an official. I don’t think he ever called a game that Orr was coaching, in which Orr didn’t win.

Johnny Orr was a heck of a coach, a heck of an athlete and was fun to be around. Boy was he fun to be with and be around in those days. It was a different set of circumstances in those days. I laugh thinking about it, but we’d all imitate him: “Hot damn, Coach! What the hell are you doin?” Everybody was coach to him you know. He was really a good person, a hell of coach and a heck of a competitor.”
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Norm Stewart interview on former ISU coach Orr - FIJItiger MU - 11/9 09:25:47
     One thing about coaches from that era - alstl MU - 11/9 10:33:42
          RE: One thing about coaches from that era - FIJItiger MU - 11/9 10:37:52

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