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The Hallmark Coach
Bringing a sense of family and community to Seton Hall's men's basketball program
By Raymond Leone

When one thinks of a "college basketball coach," a certain image comes to mind; loud, gruff, and confrontational with referees (maybe even throwing a chair every now and then.) When one meets Louis Orr, Seton Hall University's men's head basketball coach, you are met with a smile, a gentle handshake and a soft spoken man of faith whose goal is to bring a family atmosphere into his locker room. When you meet Louis Orr, you don't think of "basketball coach" at all, you think neighbor, friend and upstanding member of the community.

But Louis Orr, the basketball coach, is a force to be reckoned with. When taking over the Seton Hall basketball program in 2001, Orr came into a program in flux. His predecessor had abruptly left for another school and several players hinted at transferring out of Seton Hall. But in three short years, Louis Orr has turned the program around. Last year, in only his second season roaming the hardwood in South Orange, he led the Pirates to a winning record in a tough Big East conference and brought respectability back to the program. And for this quick turnaround, Orr was recognized by his peers and was named Big East Coach of the Year for the 2002-2003 season. Louis Orr, the basketball coach, is for real.

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Louis Orr, the basketball player, quickly established himself as a dominant "big man." Especially as he began to grow into his 6'9" frame. From 1976 to 1980 he played for Syracuse University and helped lead the Orangemen to NCAA Tournament appearances each year. In 1980 Orr was awarded with "All-America" honors and finished his career as one of the top rebounders in school history. Upon graduation, Orr was the 28th overall pick in the NBA draft, selected by the Indiana Pacers. After two seasons with the Pacers, he moved on to play with the New York Knicks for six years where he established himself as a steady complement to the likes of Bill Cartwright and Patrick Ewing.

Orr began his coaching career in 1990 as a volunteer assistant coach at Xavier University. From there he went to Providence College as an assistant. He then returned to his alma mater, Syracuse University, and was an assistant coach for four years under Jim Boeheim, whom he acknowledges as one of his coaching mentors. "Jim had a uniqueness, a real nice pace about him," says Orr with a smile, "never too high, never too low. He would just kind of flow along with the season. I liked that." Orr landed his first head-coaching position in 2000 at Siena College, leading the Saints to a 20-11 record before Seton Hall called in the spring of 2001.

As a player, Orr was taught by some very successful coaches, including Beoheim and the New York Knick's Hubie Brown, from whom he learned a lot from. "He always preached fundamentals, a defensive philosophy. Hubie was also a great believer in winning the statistics battle, especially on defense. And so am I." But Orr states that the biggest influence on his coaching career was Pete Gillen, currently the men's head basketball coach at University of Virginia. "He was the first coach I worked with at Xavier. I credit him as the one who inspired me to get into coaching," says Orr with pride. "He was very encouraging and he taught me the fundamentals of the trade."

When Orr arrived at Seton Hall, his goal was clear: to create a family atmosphere in the locker room. "As a coach, you have to enjoy the competition and you have to enjoy the family atmosphere. It's a great opportunity to help young people," says Orr with conviction. "We need to trust each other, care about each other and depend on each other. You also want to establish an identity, on and off the court. It really is a family. That's the strongest union on earth." And that philosophy seems to be working. Seton Hall's basketball program has other teams taking notice and Orr has quickly established himself as one of the games top young coaches.

Louis Orr currently resides in West Orange with his wife Yvette and son Chauncey. His daughter Monica plays basketball at Fordham University. "I like West Orange a lot. It's a neighborhood with friendly people" says Orr, "I like the fact that it's a diverse area with a lot of kids my son's age. When I'm not at work I stay local. It's a nice fit for us. We're very comfortable here. I could live in the area whether I was coaching here or not." And as far as support for the team, Orr says with pride "the student support we get has been just great. Our fans come out and cheer and we appreciate it." Orr also likes to get his players out in the community. "We have a lot of local players on the team so they get out when they can and visit schools and take part in local events for kids." Orr and his wife are very active in their church. "I'm a member of New Hope Baptist Church in East Orange and I try to get involved when I can. It's been a blessing to worship with fellow Christians, make friends and have a social base. When we're not around basketball we spend time there. I'm a community guy, I like knowing my neighbors and I like being home."

So Orr heads up two families. His immediate family in West Orange, and his basketball family in South Orange. Orr sits back and says with a quiet confidence, "I hope the players sense my commitment and my genuine concern for them; as players and as people. I'm a parent, a father, a husband, a mentor, and a friend. It's a great opportunity to have a positive effect on young people. And as far as I'm concerned that's what this whole coaching thing is about."

Raymond Leone is 5'9" and has established himself as one of the best low post players in his driveway, especially when playing against his 3'2" daughter Emma.

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