The Last Word On The Smart/Orr Incident

I will make a few points about the incident that occurred Saturday night when Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart shoved a Texas Tech fan, Jeff Orr, after Orr shouted something at Smart’s direction in the waning seconds of the Cowboys/Red Raiders basketball game. And after I finish this, I’m moving on, because this story is essentially over (except for a large number of people who will continue to keep making this a major news story).

Emotions run high in certain situations: family event, hostage crisis, wars, and yes, sports. What’s forgotten in this story is that the game was very competitive and emotions can run the gamut, for good and bad. The emotions got the best of both player and fan. That’s as simple as it gets.

Smart apologized for shoving the fan, and said it was his fault and his alone. Smart had to stand at a podium, in front of a microphone, a press corp, and live cameras to address the public. He showed maturity and contrite.

Orr, on the other hand, released a statement through Texas Tech’s athletic website. He didn’t stand in front of a microphone or cameras and publicly apologized. We haven’t seen him since he shouted at Smart before getting shoved. He stated that he “voluntarily agreed” to not attend any more Tech basketball games, home and away, for the rest of the season. “Voluntarily agreed” is code for “we know you said something bad. We want you to stay from our campus and the team, or you can kiss your season passes goodbye…forever.”

So, who’s the adult here?

Smart, because he faced the music, or Orr, who’s hiding because he’s embarrassed himself and the school with his past actions.

Jeff Orr is a grown adult. Marcus Smart is a young man.

People are saying that it’s sad this had to happen. I think we’re missing another angle.

I tell you what is more sad: the idea that an adult fan, or in Orr’s case a “super-fan”, can act boorish and feel like his or her admission ticket or season pass is a license to act like a jackass. Our society loves to lecture young adults and children about showing sportsmanship, civility, and good behavior. But we, as adults, can’t seem to police ourselves and practice what we preach.

How can we admonish Marcus Smart, a young 20-something college student, on his actions, when we can’t display good behavior ourselves, as adults?

Most of us attend sporting events for several core reasons: to support a team or player, school, and for the most part, to be entertained. There are, however, a group of fans who view going to sporting events “as a right” to get drunk, act belligerent, verbally, and at worst, physically attack an athlete, coach, or official.

Jeff Orr isn’t a fan, a “super-fan”, or a much beloved #1 Texas Tech fan. He’s a guy, over the age of 45 (I believe) who was allowed to get away with some antics, simply because of his reputation. This isn’t the first time he’s been caught doing or saying stuff to get under an opposing player’s skin. Individuals like Orr gives regular fans a bad name.

A 50-year-old man shouldn’t act and behave like a drunken 24-year-old d-bag.

It’s time for fans to start policing themselves and demand that these so-called “fans” who act badly either wise up or be removed. Fans want to have a good experience when watching sports in person. No one wants to have that experience sullied by a boorish lout or someone who does not respect other fans around them. Some fans have decided not to bring their children to games because of the excessive cursing and drunkenness.

If we expect athletes and coaches to conduct themselves with class and good behavior, then fans have no excuses to expect that of themselves.

I don’t care what was exactly said, or who edited the audio. Nor do I care if Orr wrote that apology or Tech wrote it up for him. The bottom line is that this incident happened, both Smart and Orr apologized for their actions and will accept the punishment given, and it’s time to move on.

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Every Night Was “The Tonight Show” in Ames: Johnny Orr (1927-2013)

Johnny Orr walking out with Fred Hoiberg to a raucous crowd prior to the Cyclones’ game against Michigan in November. (David Purdy/Getty Images North America)

If there was one lasting image, albeit a fitting one, this picture above said it best. Before the tip-off of Iowa State’s game versus Michigan, head coach Fred Hoiberg surprised many by walking out of the tunnel…with Johnny Orr by his side. For 14 seasons, Orr walked out of that same tunnel, pumps his fist to the melody of “The Tonight Show” and Cyclones fans went wild.

On that Sunday afternoon last month, everything became full circle for Johnny. The two teams he coached faced each other, one of his star players patrolling the sidelines, and the television analyst that prompted Johnny to utter the infamous and hilarious “..and we kicked your ass!” line to him, Dick Vitale, was on hand to call his first game ever at Hilton Coliseum.

How ironic it was. The stars were aligned that afternoon.

And how bittersweet it is this morning.

Johnny Orr left us this morning at age 86.

Orr was more than the man and the architect of making Iowa State a formidable foe in the Big 8 and now Big 12 Conference. Johnny was more than the face of Cyclones Country and an endearing and wildly popular icon, 19 years after he retired as head coach.

Johnny Orr, to me, is part of a special group of unforgettable individuals that we were damn blessed and lucky to have. He was a character…with character, quick to turn a scowl at a ref to glee after a big play, and even when fans of the opposing team couldn’t stand him, they couldn’t help but to privately smile and fall for his charms.

Johnny (43) as a star player for the Taylorville (IL) Tornadoes. He led Taylorville to the first undefeated season in Illinois prep basketball history. MGoBlog has a great feature on Johnny here. (MGoBlog)

Johnny started his coaching career at Dubuque Senior in the 50’s, where he took two squads to the state tournament. Before that, he played for the Waterloo Hawks, who then became the St. Louis (and now Atlanta) Hawks in the early days of the NBA. Johnny had already planted the seeds of his lore here in Iowa. After a few stops at Wisconsin (as an assistant), and UMass (as head coach), he landed in Ann Arbor. Michigan wasn’t just a football school. The Wolverines had great tradition in basketball as well (Cazzie Russell, Rudy Tomjanovich, etc).

Johnny took the Wolverines to 2 NIT appearances, a first-round NCAA trip, two Elite Eight appearances, and finishing as runner-ups to national champion Indiana in 1976. Indiana remains the last team to go undefeated and win a title. Orr is the winningest coach in Michigan basketball history with 209 wins.

Think about this: Orr was the winningest and longest-serving coach at two schools in two power conferences: the Big 10 and the Big 8 (12).

Iowa State athletic director Lou McCullough was looking for anyone to coach the Cyclones.

Anyone.

He got in touch with Johnny to ask him a few questions about possible candidates. The next thing McCullough knew, Johnny showed interest in the job. Former Des Moines Register sports columnist Marc Hansen picks up the story here.

After a few lean years and patience (which in today’s college sports world, no one seems to have when it comes to building, or rebuilding, programs), Johnny kept his recruiting connection to Detroit by bringing in some guys named Grayer and Stevens, took a chance on a skinny guard named Hornacek, and assembled a few more players, and Ames no longer became an easy place to grab a win and dinner take out from the Hickory House.

Picture of the 1984-85 Cyclones men’s basketball team. (Visions: Iowa State Alum Magazine)

When the Cyclones made the NCAA tournament in 1985, it was euphoria. But, Johnny had a few more tricks up his sleeve. The Cyclones faced Michigan, his old team in the first round of the 1986 NCAA tournament. I think you know the outcome of that game. One of the biggest wins in school history at that point. That wasn’t enough for the Cardinal and Gold.

The Lafester Rhodes game, where former Hawkeyes assistant coach Gary Close and Orr nearly came to blows at the end of the game; Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri visiting Hilton; and Big Monday. The Iowa Hawkeyes were no longer the biggest show in the state. With Johnny and the Cyclones, every night was “The Tonight Show” in Ames.

I saw Johnny in person only once. It was several years ago at a golf outing to benefit the American Diabetes Association, in which I currently serve on the board for. Per my nature, when I see VIPs like Johnny, Tom Harkin, or someone like Barry Griswell and Keith Murphy, I give them their space. I don’t need to walk up to them and chat them up or get an autograph. Observing and watching them from afar is enough for me.

I am reminded of a quote that was written in May that rings ever so true today.

It’s going to take a while to wrap my mind around the fact Jim Zabel has died, even though he was 91 years old.

That was written by Cedar Rapids Gazette’s Mike Hlas in May, after Jim Zabel’s passing. It’s going to take a while for all of us to wrap our minds around the fact that two of the most iconic faces of Iowa sports are now silent. There is also something to add: the era of colorful, charismatic and personable coaches are nearing an end.

Today, we are inundated with “coach-speak”, CEO-like processes and mindset in sports, branding is everything, and the influx of constant interaction and media. Back then, coaches like Johnny, Knight, Wimp Sanderson, and even Bill Raftery were the same people off the court as they were on it, for the most part. For good (Orr) and for bad (Knight).

Orr’s passing today is symbolic, along with Zabel’s passing in May: a special era of unforgettable  individuals who gave this state an identity and a sense of pride in our teams, will forever live in memory.

“The Tonight Show” theme was and will always be Johnny Orr’s intro as he walked out on the court. In the second-to-last Tonight Show for Johnny Carson, Bette Midler was Carson’s last guest. She performed two songs, which were Carson’s favorite. “One More For My Baby” and “I’ll Be Seeing You” were the selections.

As we pay tribute and remember Johnny Orr on this, the final day of 2013, a melancholy and bittersweet happy trails for a coach, already successful and revered, who took a chance on a school that had no consistent winning tradition or culture, and turned it into a place so special and endearing, a Kansas Jayhawk fan can openly admit, with trepidation, that there’s something about Hilton Magic that makes Iowa State one of the toughest places to play…ever.

Farewell, Johnny.

Live coverage of Nebraska BOR meeting

It's high noon in Lincoln.

I’m working on a few things, non-sports related, to post in a few days.

But if you think I’ve grown tired of the Big 12 breakup, you are so wrong. The Nebraska Board of Regents is meeting as we speak.

If you have nothing to do, or do not want to listen to the Cubs and White Sox start their weekend series at Wrigley, you can tune into KOZN-AM 1620 (ESPN) out of Omaha , as they are covering the developments in Lincoln.  Currently, the Board of Regents are now meeting in a closed session, with the formal announcement that the Huskers will leave the Big 12 and join the Big 10 expected before the end of business today (that’s 5pm to you and me).

I apologize for the histrionics of the show hosts.  They can’t wait to join the Big 10.

This hour’s conference break-up report is brought to you in part by the Cubs and White Sox rivalry, presented by BP.

BP, where oil and water don’t mix!

Big 10: Nebraska (done deal), Texas, Texas A&M (if you believe what KCTV-TV in K.C. says)

Pac 10: The Texas triple axis

MWC: Iowa State, K-State, Baylor

Independent: Kansas Basketball

Who just screwed themselves: Missouri, Notre Dame (goodbye lucrative TV contract and goodbye BCS money!)

Breaking News from Kansas and USC gets their lunch handed to them (literally)

After 4 years and extensive investigations, USC gets nailed by the NCAA.

Today, the NCAA lowered the boom, finally, on USC after completing their investigations over improper benefits being given to former USC football standout Reggie Bush and former USC basketball player O.J. Mayo.

Trojan football got the worst of it.  They will lose 30 scholarships over the next three years, possibly lose their 2004 National Championship, some of the victories from the 2004 season and all of the wins from the 2005 season.  Bush could possibly lose his Heisman Trophy.

For the sycophants who ripped Tim Floyd over how O.J. Mayo “found” his way to USC, and Pete Carroll could do no wrong, maybe it’s time to dump out the Trojan kool-aid.  Carroll left USC high and dry, being aware that USC was going to get whacked.   The NCAA all but slapped the death penalty on USC and A.D. Mike Garrett for a lack of institutional control (ironically is what the NCAA is guilty of themselves).

Football coach Lane Kiffin and basketball coach Kevin O’Neill are going to have some lean years ahead of them and the kids who are there now.  That’s too bad, but the school had it coming to them.  As far as Garrett is concerned, how he continues as an athletic director is beyond me.  He ran Floyd out and Carroll had enough sense to get out.

Texas is going to love joining the Pac-10 at the right time, as USC will be down.

Abe Vigoda is still alive, but he's not the Kansas A.D.

BREAKING:   Kansas athletics director Lew Perkins has announced that he’s resigining, effective September 2011.  Perkins has been embroiled in a ticket scandal, which includes the father of current KU hoops player Brady Morningstar.  Perkins was exonerated by a grand jury earlier this week.  (Story provided courtesy of DSM Register’s Sean Keeler and KU Sports).

And now, your updated Big 12 breakup list!

Big 10: Nebraska, Syracuse(?) (hey, anything but to add ND)

Pac-10:  Colorado, Texas, Texas Tech

Mtn. West: Kansas State, Iowa State

Independent: Kansas Basketball, Notre Dame Football, Baylor

SEC: Texas A&M (traveling to Oxford, Mississippi isn’t like going to Austin, Texas)

“Head east, Big Red”

Load up the wagon, Ma, we're heading east....to the Big 10!

Sean Callahan from Husker Illustrated has reported the inevitable, and I say this with caution, that the Board of Regents at the University of Nebraska will meet on Friday morning and is likely to vote in favor of leaving the Big 12.

Later on that day, the Big 10 is expected to extend the invite for Tom Osborne and the Big Red Nation to join their league.

As Horace Greeley would say today:  “Go east, young man.”

The Huskers have called Missouri and Colorado’s bluff, and the covered wagon wheels are now moving…to send the Big 12 off the cliff.

It’s on like Donkey Kong now, kiddies.

Today’s ever-changing conference comings-and-goings:

Big 10: Nebraska

Pac 10: Colorado and all of the Texas schools, sans Baylor

Screwed: Missouri and Baylor (welcome to the club fellas), the Kansas schools, and ISU

Who should start a new conference?: the teams in the screwed category plus Utah, Colorado State, and Tulsa.  It’s the “new” Big 8!

Football + money + conference shuffling = egos

Is Iowa State bound for the Iowa Conference???

The story of the year (and it’s not even close) is the rumored major shuffling of schools leaving their athletic conferences.

If you think that this is going to be an easy task to explain, I have the Court Avenue Bridge in Des Moines to sell you.  And I’ll throw a bag o’ donuts along with it.

It’s all about money, if you asked me.

Is Missouri leaving?  Will Nebraska flip the bird to Texas and go to the Big 10.  Will Kansas basketball end up playing in places like Cheyenne, Provo, Las Cruces?

Of course, as this story changes every day, KU might end up traveling to Emporia, Waverly, and Little Rock.

This is better than watching a soap opera.

Let's start the bidding for the Court Ave. bridge at $1. Do I hear $2???

Report: Colorado to bolt on Wednesday

"We're out (maybe?)!"

Chip Brown of the Texas Longhorns message board, Orangebloods.com, is a busy boy these days.

Brown has reported, from two sources, that the University of Colorado is expected to announce that they will leave the Big 12 and head to the Pac-10.  But there is financial catch if the Buffaloes want to break camp. In order to leave, Colorado will have to pay a $1o million (penalty) fee.

I’ll believe it when I actually see CU officials get up on the podium and say “we’re out” in their best Cosmo Kramer voice.

I guess we won’t have to hear Dan Hawkins talk about the Big 12 again like he did in this classic rant: