Louis Orr, a star Syracuse forward who in the 1980s played for the Knicks alongside Bernard King and Patrick Ewing, and who later became a college coach, including as Ewing’s assistant at Georgetown, has died Thursday. He was 64 years old.
The cause was cancer, Orr’s family said in a statement released by Georgetown. The statement does not specify where he died.
Orr shot over 50% in the four years of his college career. After being the sixth man in the first year, he became a starter. In the 1979-80 season, he had a stellar year as a senior, averaging 16 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. That year, the team won the Big East Championship and Orr was named Syracuse’s Most Valuable Player and selected to the Big East First Team.
Orr was drafted by the Pacers in 1980 and joined the Knicks in 1982. He found his skinny physique to be a problem in the NBA “This kid from Orr is about 6-foot-8, maybe 180, drenched” , Chuck Daly, a Philadelphia assistant coach, told The New York Times in a 1981 profile of Orr. Some people in basketball had taken to calling him Bones, which Orr didn’t like, the Times reported.
“God gave me a body that bends but doesn’t break,” Orr said. “I sometimes hurt after a game, but the bruises keep going away.”
Powerful Knicks forward Len Robinson, known as Truck, told The Times in 1984 that he learned from playing against Orr in practice that Orr was able to compensate for his slight build.
“He’s a smart player, he knows his limits,” Robinson said. “He’s not trying to be physical. When he plays against bigger and stronger players, he doesn’t get confused with them.
Orr backed up to Robinson and King, the star forward whose right leg injury in 1985 became a major setback for the Knicks. Orr, who retired in 1988, straddled Knicks center Ewing before the team established the heart of its 1990s playoffs, with solid partners for Ewing like Anthony Mason.
Orr spent a decade as an assistant coach at Xavier, Providence and Syracuse, then became head coach at Siena College and Seton Hall, where he remained from 2001 to 2006. He won the coaching title of the Big East in 2003, becoming the first person in conference history to win honors as a player and coach, according to Georgetown. He was head coach at Bowling Green State University from 2007 to 2014, and from 2017 until his death worked as an assistant to Ewing, who became head coach at Georgetown.
Louis Orr was born on May 7, 1958 in Cincinnati. He was enough of a star in high school that in 1976 Rick Pitino, then an assistant coach at Syracuse, postponed his honeymoon and flew from New York to Cincinnati after his wedding to recruit Orr.
Orr’s survivors include his wife, Yvette; his son, Chauncey; his daughter, Monica; and two grandsons.
Orr became an evangelical Christian after his second season in the NBA, while watching TV and seeing a sermon by preacher Jimmy Swaggart. Orr came to see coaching as a kind of ministry, he told The Times in 2005, and he tended to write a dozen verses of scripture on the back of his game plans. His favorite verse was Jeremiah 29:11:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord – or, quite often, the coach – “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”.
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