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.


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.


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.

The Greatest One Hour of the Year

Need I say more? 

In case if you were unaware, there are lyrics (yes lyrics!) to the CBS College Basketball theme.  Sing-a-long with the older version of CBS’ theme. 

Come on and watch some basketball,

you’ll watch it all… day… long…

Come on and watch some basketball,

til’ your pool sheet is done! ..

Come on and watch some basketball,

it’s got it all…Tour-na-ment Madness …

Throw in a few parlays, Gambling is fun!…

Walton and Wooden own the court,

don’t try them out… you’ll….lose…

Packer and Nantz call all the games,

just watch… Billy be wrong…

Come on and watch some basketball,

your wife is mad… send..her out shopping…

Coach K is gay… Duke really sucks!

Basketball…Up All Night

Coach Ben Jacobson and his UNI Panthers tip off later tonight at St. Mary's. (Bleacher Report)

Last year, I was awake for nearly 24 hours to take in the College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon being televised on ESPN.  It was a fun experience. 

I was able to do it, simply because I was between jobs and didn’t have much to do besides sending resumes and networking. 

Now that I’m in the working world, that won’t be the case tonight as ESPN starts up another edition of 24-hours of hoop madness again this evening.  But, there is one exception I can make…

…the UNI Panthers are playing tonight.  The purple-clad Panthers of Cedar Falls has made the trek to Moraga, California to take on fellow mid-major powerhouse the Gaels of St. Mary’s.  Ken Fang, the man behind the great media resource and info website, Fang’s Bites, has the all of the details of who’s playing who between 11pm tonight until around 11pm tomorrow night. 

However, if you don’t want to bother your spouse in bed, flip on the radio to your local UNI affiliate station to listen to Gary Rima and Kevin Boyle.  While you’re at it, let’s keep our late night radio guys running the boards company on Twitter or on Facebook.  They will appreciate having Panthers fans and basketball fans along for the late night. 

So good to have college hoops return. 

Ooooh baby!!!!!!!

Blogger’s note:  St. Mary’s defeated UNI, 57-41.  Mark Emmert of the Des Moines Register files the game’s recap. 

The Science of Bracketology

His nickname is Joey Brackets.

He loves making predictions.

This is his favorite time of the year.  People love him or hate him, but when he pops his head on your TV set, everyone stops to watch him.

He’s not a political pundit or a dabble with a mystery ball.

Joey Brackets is obsessed with a science called “Bracketology.” He even teaches a college course on it.  Seriously, there is a class on Bracketology.


Joe Lunardi, the man behind Bracketology

Joe Lunardi has created a niche and a brand out of studying teams, their schedules, and how well they play as the NCAA tournament approaches.  It’s all trends:  who’s stumbling, who’s rising, who needs to win, and who can’t afford to lose.

ESPN leans on every word he says because his track record (allegedly) is solid.  Nevertheless, Lunardi loves this time of the year.

This is where he makes his money and people find out who he is.

The “Power” of Gus


Over the past week, Coldplay and Nickelback provided lessons in creating and cultivating your brands in social media.  The main idea is, by combining what Michael Wagner and the Ad Mavericks gang have written, that if you continue to create and cultivate your brand, the more people will gravitate towards it, via traditional or social media. 

I don’t listen to Nickelback or Coldplay.  The only facts I know about both groups is that Tiger Woods listen to Nickelback, and actress Gwyneth Paltrow is married to Chris Martin, Coldplay’s lead singer. 

While I don’t know much about these two muscial groups, I do know about sports.  And in the world of sports, there is one person who comes awfully close to what Coldplay and Nickelback are doing to stay creative, getting their brand out, and using social media to gain traction. 

Mr. "Rise and Fire!" has become popular with a soundboard named after him. Click and see the power of Gus.

And that man is Gus Johnson

Johnson is a sports announcer for CBS, the Big Ten Network, and Showtime.  If you haven’t seen or heard his work, I call attention to this clip…

…and this one…

What does Gus Johnson have to do with Coldplay, Nickelback, branding, marketing, and social media? 

  • Presence:  Gus is blowing up virally and on social media.  When someone finds out what game Johnson is calling next, everyone on Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms will know it within minutes. 
  • Popularity:  though he isn’t in the elite class of announcers like Jim Nantz, Al Michaels, or Joe Buck, Gus is the one announcer fans want doing the Final Four, the Super Bowl, or all of the big games. 
  • Marketing:  Johnson is taking advantage of his notoriety in a big way.  The Big Ten Network has made him their #1 guy for their marquee conference games.  He has his own clothing line, appropriately titled “Rise and Fire”, and he’s the voiceover for the Buffalo Wild Wings commercials. Also, he will be the voice of the new EA Sports‘ Madden ’11 NFL video games.

 Johnson, for all intensive purposes, has become a phenomenon, as well as a trending topic in sports, as it relates to social media.

A Life Well Lived: John Wooden (1910-2010)

A good life ended at 8:45 pm Central Daylight time Friday evening for a good man.  Let me correct myself.

A great man.

I’ll refrain from writing any more until Saturday.  Better yet, I’ll let the story, the games, and the images, do that for me.

Coach, Nellie is waiting for you.