In 2006, after losing by 42 points at home to top-ranked Connecticut, Seton Hall’s basketball team rebounded three days later to knock off No. 11 West Virginia. Afterward, the soft-spoken Pirates head coach began his press conference with a quote he turned to for reinforcement.
“I get knocked down,” said Louis Orr, “but I get back up.”
No, contrary to popular opinion at the time, Orr did not use a line from the Chumabwumba hit song “Tubthumping.” It was a verse from the Bible, 2 Corinthians 4. Although the source was different, the essence was the same: Orr, a man of deep faith, saw life – and basketball – as a test of endurance.
He died of pancreatic cancer on Thursday at the age of 64 The Syracuse Post-Standard reports. Although he only coached the Pirates for five seasons, they were memorable. His 2002-03 team won eight straight Big East games before being rejected by the NCAA Tournament selection committee. In 2003-04, Hall danced, then rallied from a 14-point victory over an Arizona team that featured four future NBA draft picks. The aforementioned 2005-06 edition, ranked No. 15 in the Big East preseason poll, rebounded from two 40-plus point losses to make the NCAA — at the time, the only high-major ever to do so.
Orr was fired after that season. Seton Hall was going through upheaval in the athletic department at the time, it didn’t see eye to eye with the new administration, and there were concerns about the program’s trajectory. He left with an 80-69 record at South Orange, and his gentle demeanor really helped the program heal after Tommy Amaker’s tumultuous departure to Michigan in 2001 left an open wound in the locker room. After Orr was released, the Pirates did not return to the Dance for another 10 years. He remains one of three coaches in Hall history to guide a team to multiple NCAA bids.
In a statement, Seton Hall Athletics mourned the loss of “a true gentleman and wonderful coach.”
Two of Orr’s players from those years went on to coach in college. Former guard Donald Copeland is the head coach at Wagner and former center Grant Billmeier is an assistant at Maryland. Both were assistants in the Hall last season.
“It’s a sad moment,” Copeland said. “I have always been very grateful to Coach Orr for his faith in me. My time at Seton Hall was special and stays with me today. He is a big reason for that. I managed to maintain a good relationship with him after college. He always said how proud he was of me. I always said how grateful I was to him, more than he knew. He showed me the compassionate side of coaching. He has and always will have a great influence on me as a person, player and now coach. I am forever grateful to him. He should be celebrated for the great man he was and for the lives he influenced.”
As a show of his class, Orr attended Billmeier’s Senior Day in 2007, a year after his firing, as a show of support.
“Coach Orr was an incredible person,” Billmeier said. “He was extremely selfless and had a tremendous basketball mind, but more importantly, he was a great mentor to me and all of my teammates who played for him. Holding us accountable on and off the field was more important than any win or loss in his eyes.”
His impressive basketball career included a distinguished career as a player at Syracuse, where his number 55 was retired, and eight seasons as an NBA forward, including six with the Knicks. As a college head coach, he led Siena and Bowling Green to regular-season conference titles and was named Big East Coach of the Year in 2003. His overall coaching record was 201-201.
“Louis was such a big influence on me, not only professionally, but personally,” said Marist head coach John Dunn, an assistant under Orr at Seton Hall who went on to coach St. Peter’s at participation in the NCAA Tournament. “Outside of family, there are very few people who have had such a profound impact on my life for the better, and Lou was one of them. He was special and will be greatly missed.”
In 2017, Orr reunited with old Knicks friend Patrick Ewing as a member of Ewing’s staff in Georgetown and helped the Hoys win the 2021 Big East title. Every time they met at Seton Hall, Orr would give a warm pregame greeting to everyone he knew who would still be involved with the program, and they invariably said the same thing about him: What a nice guy.
Jerry Carino has covered the New Jersey sports scene since 1996 and college basketball since 2003. He is a top 25 pick by the Associated Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.