As if No. 3 Kansas coming to town couldn’t get fans hyped enough, there will be two Johnny Orr’s at Hilton Coliseum on Wednesday.
The winningest coach in ISU men’s basketball history, Orr is being honored on the court before the game and will also host the grand opening of his namesake restaurant, “Johnny’s,” a sports bar for donors on the east concourse.
A statue of Orr and some memorabilia from his coaching career will also sit outside the donor area.
“Johnny has been, and I think always will be, the most important sports figure in [ISU] athletics history,” said current coach and former Orr player Fred Hoiberg.
Orr (218-200) led the Cyclones to six NCAA Tournament appearances and five 20-win seasons during his 14-year tenure, including a stretch of four tournaments in five years (1985 to 1989).
Hoiberg and current Cyclones know Orr was more than just a record and some stats, as the retired golfer and Florida snow-bird was a big enough personality that he got the restaurant and a famous entry.
The sound system at Hilton would blare the “Here’s Johnny!” introduction from the “Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson whenever Orr would hit the court.
“He’s the best I’ve ever seen at just going in and commanding a room and telling jokes and telling stories,” Hoiberg said. “I think that’s one of the reasons people had so much passion for Johnny at Iowa State.”
A popular figure that has been described as a wild man on the sideline, Orr gets to see his young confidant in Hoiberg take over the reins of the program and attempt to re-establish Orr’s legendary “Hilton Magic.”
“He was competing for league championships,” Hoiberg said. “That’s what I want to do. It is exciting, and I know how much fun it is to play that way. I know players want to play that way; I know fans want to see that style of basketball.”
The Cyclones will likely need Orr’s energy boost, taking on an undefeated Jayhawk team that has beaten Iowa State in 10 straight meetings. Orr’s teams were always contenders against the powers of the Big Eight Conference, but the Cyclones haven’t defeated a ranked team at home since 2006.
“I’ve heard and everyone has been telling me he’s a legend here, and it’s going to be real exciting for the fans,” said current ISU forward Jamie Vanderbeken.
A presentation and likely subsequent ovation are schedule to begin at 7:45 p.m., with tip-off 15 minutes after that. Orr was inducted into the Iowa State Athletics Hall of Fame in 2001.
“It wasn’t just about basketball; he cared about you, he wanted you to graduate,” Hoiberg said. “It should be a great night to honor a great man Wednesday.”