Remembering Johnny Orr

Former Michigan basketball coach Johnny Orr passed away Tuesday at the age of 86.

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sport/USA TODAY Sports

Former Michigan basketball coach Johnny Orr, who passed away Tuesday at the age of 86, was the first coach I ever interviewed.

I was in junior high, had a dream of becoming a sports broadcaster and used to take a tape recorder to Michigan basketball games to practice my play-by-play.

(Belated apologies to all those fans sitting nearby who had to be very annoyed by the kid announcer.)

This was back in the days when there was still a junior-varsity team that played before the main attraction. I would go early with a friend and we saw Orr sitting courtside during one of those JV games.

My buddy Paul Braman talked me into going down to ask Orr if he’d join me for a "pre-game show."

I’d never met the man. I was very nervous bothering him, especially right before a game, but I went for it.

"Mr. Orr, I want to be a sports broadcaster when I grow up. Would you mind doing a pre-game show with me?"

He couldn’t have been nicer.

I still have the cassette tape with my squeaky voice asking questions to the coach who led the Wolverines to the national-championship game in 1976.

Orr finished his coaching career at Iowa State where they played The Tonight Show "Here’s Johnny" theme song for him.

I interviewed him at least one other time after becoming a sportswriter. He called me "Coach," which was his trademark greeting for everyone he met.

He was good man. He was a funny man. He was my very first interview.

You don’t forget your first one.