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A few years ago when it was announced that the Iowa State athletics department would honor Johnny Orr with a permanent tribute at Hilton Coliseum, there was a segment of the fan base that felt the university had missed the mark by not naming the playing floor after the legendary coach. This had been done recently for a couple of Johnny’s coaching peers at Missouri and Oklahoma State, where the basketball squads now play on Norm Stewart and Eddie Sutton Courts, respectively.
I have to admit that I shared in this disappointment initially. That was until I saw the tremendous job that Jamie Pollard and his staff did with “Johnny’s.” True to form, Pollard hit a home run with yet another facilities improvement, leading the development of an honor perfectly fitting for the spirited father of Hilton Magic.
“We thought it was important to preserve Coach Orr’s legacy for generations to come, do so in a unique way and make sure it represented Johnny’s charisma," Pollard said at the dedication. "We believe the statue, sports bar-like donor area and memorabilia from his tenure are the perfect tribute." (Oh, and it generates revenue too.)
Nailed. It. But what about that floor?
If you’ve been watching Iowa State basketball over the past four seasons, you’ve heard the story a few dozen times. It just so happens that there is a certain someone working the Cyclone bench these days who grew up… say it with me now… just three blocks from Hilton Coliseum. Long story short, it turns out this hometown boy really knows how to coach some basketball. And we’re not talking Tim Floyd, junk defense, sixty-four-to-fifty-seven-type basketball. That was good basketball and I think Floyd is in the conversation for the best ISU men’s basketball coach of all time (for now), but ‘Floydball’ is no ‘Hoiball’ when it comes to getting butts up and out of seats. I digress.
So not only was this hometown boy practically born at center court in Hilton Coliseum (shut up, Nebraska), but he was also a ball boy for the men’s basketball squad as a young lad. After that, he got pretty good at the sport, won a state title at Ames High, turned down Lute Olson at Arizona and a football scholarship from Nebraska and ended being a four-year starter for the Cyclones. He scored just shy of 2,000 points in his career and was named First-Team All-Big Eight his senior year. Oh, and he received some write-in votes in the Ames mayoral election.
As we all know, the fairytale story didn’t end there. That crazy/brilliant Pollard decided to take a flyer on this hometown hero – a hero with zero experience as a head coach, nay, zero coaching experience, period. However, Hoiberg is just one of those guys who knows success and little more. He’s a born winner with great intellect and a tremendous ability to relate to his players. In four years as head coach, he’s already piled up 90 wins and three NCAA Tournament appearances. And, make no mistake, he is just getting started.
So whose floor is it? Who are we kidding? He worked it as a ball boy. He spilled sweat and blood on it as a player. And he currently orchestrates its Magic as head coach. It’s Freddy’s Floor. And as long as he is coaching the Iowa State University men’s basketball team, Hilton is his coliseum, Iowa State is his campus, and Ames is his town.
Let the banner unfurlings commence.