Louis Orr, 64, Dies; Syracuse Star, Knicks Forward and a Coach
Louis Orr, a star forward at Syracuse 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, died on Thursday. He was 64.
The cause was cancer, Orr’s family said in a statement released by Georgetown. The statement did not say where he died.
Orr shot over 50 percent for all four years of his college career. After serving as the sixth man as a freshman, he became a starter. In the 1979-80 season he enjoyed a breakout 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 for the all-Big East first team.
Orr was drafted by the Pacers in 1980 and joined the Knicks in 1982. He found that his skinny physique was an issue in the N.B.A. “This Orr kid is about 6-foot-8, maybe 180, soaking wet,” 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 did not appreciate, The Times reported.
“God gave me a body that bends but doesn’t break,” Orr said. “I hurt at times after a game, but the bruises keep going away.”
The brawny Knicks power forward Len Robinson, known as Truck, told The Times in 1984 that he had 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 doesn’t try to get physical. When he plays against players bigger and stronger, he doesn’t mix up with them.”
Orr played backup 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, overlapped with Ewing, the Knicks’ center, before the team established the core of its 1990s playoff runs, with strong partners for Ewing like Anthony Mason.
Orr spent a decade as an assistant coach at Xavier, Providence and Syracuse, and then became head coach at Siena College and Seton Hall, where he remained from 2001 to 2006. He won Big East coach of the year in 2003, becoming the first person in the history of the conference to win honors as both a player and a coach, according to Georgetown. He was the head coach for Bowling Green State University from 2007 to 2014, and from 2017 until his death he 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 insteadflew 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 N.B.A., when he was watching television and saw a sermon by the preacher Jimmy Swaggart. Orr came to see coaching as a kind of ministry, he told The Times in 2005, and he tended to write about 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, not infrequently, the coach — “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”