Hall of Fame Coaches Announced

The first coaches inducted into the Cyclone Nation.com Hall of Fame are a pair of basketball coaches who created plenty of excitement around their programs. It was not an easy decision for our "panel of experts" to reach. In fact, 10 different coaches received votes from the members of our panel. The nominations for the Cyclone Nation.com Hall of Fame were submitted by Cyclone Nation.com readers.

Here are the selections:
Johnny Orr
Bill Fennelly

Here are my thoughts and some of the comments made by voters regarding the inductees:

1) Johnny Orr. While Coach Orr won more games than any other coach in ISU men's basketball history (218), his legend in Ames is as much for putting butts in the seats and bringing an exciting brand of basketball to Iowa State at a time when the program was in need of a fix.

In the six years prior to Orr's arrival at ISU, the Cyclones had suffered five losing seasons…and had only 57 victories. Plus, the average attendance at Hilton Coliseum was a dismal 6,470 in 1979.

Orr took over the ISU helm in 1980 and all of that changed. The Cyclones had not been to a postseason tournament in over 40 years, but during Orr's 14 seasons, ISU was invited to seven postseason tourneys, including six NCAA bids. The Cyclones made it to the Sweet 16 in 1986.

During Coach Orr's final 11 seasons, the average attendance in Ames jumped to over 13,000 per contest…and "Hilton Magic" was born. Johnny Orr coached an exciting "run-and-gun" brand of basketball and the Iowa State fans loved it. As a result, there was a renewed interest in Cyclone athletics and the athletic department at ISU continues to benefit from that support.

Orr also recruited some of the all-time Cyclone greats to Iowa State, including Jeff Grayer, Jeff Hornacek, Fred Hoiberg, Victor Alexander and Barry Stevens.

Comments from other voters:

"Without a doubt, the old Dubuque Senior coach brought ‘energy' and life back to the ISU men's basketball program. The guy really was Hilton Magic. I still see him slumped over that stool as his outclassed Cyclone unit dismissed his old school, Michigan, in the Big Dance. I can also still see him engaged in verbal warfare with Bruce Pearl and the Hawkeye staff… The rivalry was back on."

"My top choice has to be the man who put Cyclone basketball on the map. He has to be the popular choice among Iowa State sports fans."

"I was there before he came and the program was not just a joke, but a bad joke. It had never recovered from the far-too-soon passing of Maury John. If charisma can build a program—along with a couple of really good players from Michigan—then Johnny was the man for the job."

"He's the coach who made Iowa State a believer that they could win and compete at a higher level. Johnny's enthusiasm and his ability to relate to the fans still go unmatched and will for a long, long time."

"The George Washington of the contemporary Iowa State athletic department. In other words, the father of the Cyclone Nation. His hiring legitimized not just ISU basketball, but the entire athletic department."

"Brought interest and excitement to the ISU basketball program. Every game was an event, especially at home."

2) Bill Fennelly. Just like Coach Orr with the men's program, Coach Fennelly generated immediate excitement and enthusiasm around the women's basketball program. Prior to his arrival in 1995, attendance was poor and the record was worse.

Consider the following statistics and you'll quickly realize how incredible the Iowa State women's basketball turnaround has been under Coach Fennelly…

In the 22 seasons before Coach Fennelly took over the program, Iowa State enjoyed a total of five winning seasons. The Cyclones are eight for nine with Coach Fennelly running the show.

In the 22 seasons before Coach Fennelly arrived in Ames, the Iowa State women recorded a total of 43 conference victories. In his nine seasons at Iowa State, Coach Fennelly's teams have already DOUBLED that total.

In 1999, Iowa State reached the Elite Eight. In 2000 and 2001, the Cyclones made it to the Sweet 16. In 2000, ISU shared the regular-season Big 12 title. In 2000 and 2001, the Cyclones won the Big 12 Tournament.

Under Coach Fennelly, the Cyclones have a 113-22 record (.837) at Hilton Coliseum. Attendance has been among the best in the nation during his tenure.

Coach Fennelly's record at Iowa State stands at 192-90 (.681).

Coach Fennelly has accomplished all of these things—and plenty more—while putting an entertaining team on the court that clearly enjoys playing for him. I can't believe that any other coach in America could have accomplished MORE than he has with the ISU program…and his arrival paid immediate dividends back in 1995. Here's hoping that Iowa State keeps him around until he retires.

Comments from other voters:

"In the four years prior to Fennelly's arrival, ISU compiled a 22-86 record. In the nine years since his arrival, the Cyclones are 192-90…with six NCAA appearances, three Sweet 16s and an Elite Eight, beating UConn to somehow muzzle Geno Auriema. He also won a Big 12 championship and two Big 12 tournaments. He's the Bill Snyder of women's basketball."

"It might go un-noticed, but he's the only (ISU) coach to guide a basketball team to the NCAA Tournament six straight years, plus an Elite Eight finish in 1999."

"Women's basketball isn't traditionally a revenue sport, but what he has accomplished in Ames is similar to what Bill Snyder did for Kansas State football. It once was a joke at ISU, now it's a crowd pleaser. Sure, the last two seasons have been rebuilding ones, but the previous six put ISU on the national map in the sport and next season they're poised to get back among the country's elite."

"Just like Vivian Stringer at Iowa, rejuvenated a dormant ISU women's basketball program."


Breakdown of the voting…

Each member of the panel voted for three coaches (1st team gets 3 points, 2nd team gets 2 points, 3rd team gets 1 point). The panel includes some very knowledgeable sports personalities…

Steve Deace … Popular radio personality on KXNO and Publisher of Cyclone Nation.com and "CN" magazine.
Bill Seals… Senior Writer for Cyclone Nation.com and "CN" magazine.
Bob Helmers… Producer/Director for ESPN and ESPN+Plus.
B.J. Schaben… Sports Director, Iowa Radio Network.
John Walters… Sports Director at WOI-TV and play-by-play voice of the Cyclones.
Marty Gallagher… Me.

Total points:

Johnny Orr (22)
Bill Fennelly (12)
Harold Nichols (8)
Larry Eustachy (6)
Johnny Majors (5)
Tim Floyd (3)
Bill Bergen (2)
Earle Bruce (1)
Cap Timm (1)
Clyde Williams (1)
Look for the Cyclone Nation.com Hall of Fame inductees in other categories—Athletes, Media, Games and At-Large Bids—in the coming weeks. Feel free to e-mail your comments and feedback to me at Marty@IowaSportsOpinions.com.

(Marty Gallagher founded the popular web site IowaSportsOpinions.com and now publishes IowaPrepsToday.com. E-mail him at Marty@IowaSportsOpinions.com.)

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