By RON MALY
Sad news today, gang.
Johnny Orr, the basketball coach who built Hilton Magic at Iowa State, is dead at 86.
Orr's teams won a school-record 218 games at Iowa State from 1980-1994, and I was present for many of them.
Indeed, I was on hand as a sportswriter at Hilton Coliseum for his very first victory for the Cyclones, on Dec. 4, 1980 over Drake.
I wrote many, many stories about the emotional, fist-pumping Orr and his teams, and enjoyed every minute of being around him.
He was always a straight shooter with me.
We respected one another. I knew he had a job to do and he knew I had a job to do.
No sportswriter and no coach at a major-college can expect any more.
I covered Orr and his Cyclone teams in wholesale numbers of regular-season games, conference postseason games and NCAA tournament games.
Actually, I covered a number of games coached by Orr before he came to Iowa State.
When he was at Michigan, I covered him when his teams played Iowa, and I wrote the game story in 1976 when his Wolverines lost to Bobby Knight's Indiana team in the NCAA tournament title game.
Knight was a huge fan of Orr, and called me when Johnny decided to quit at Michigan and take the Iowa State job.
"I'd like to write a guest column for you about Johnny," Knight told me on the phone.
Knight kept his promise. He wrote the column and it was published.
In a day or two, I'll reprint Knight's guest column on this website.
Afer arriving in Ames, Orr brought magic to Hilton Coliseum, a place that as in need of someone like Johnny after the likes of previous coaches such as Lynn Nance and Ken Trickey.
Fans adored the entertaining Orr, and flocked to the arena to watch his teams.
He'd walk onto the floor at Hilton, and the band would play, "He-e-e-e-r-e-'s Johnny!" to the sound of the Johnny Carson TV theme song.
Orr loved it. The crowd loved it.
And I sure loved it.
It was less than a month ago that I was discussing Orr while aboard a giant cruiseship headed to the Hawaiian Islands from Los Angeles.
We were seated at a dinner table on the fifth floor of the Star Princess. The man next to me asked where I was from.
"West Des Moines, Iowa," I said.
"I know someone from your part of the country," the man said.
"Who?" I asked.
"Johnny Orr," he answered. "I played on the outstanding basketball teams Beloit College had many years ago," the man said. "Johnny was our leader."
Little did I know then that I would be writing about Orr's death a few weeks later.
So sad a thing to have happen on New Year's Eve.
I'll miss Johnny Orr a lot.
Among Orr's survivors are wife Romie and daughters Jenniefer, Leslie and Rebecca.
Photo courtesy of USATSI