Louis Orr has been head coach of the Bowling Green Falcons men's basketball team for seven seasons. During that time, he's been a fantastic ambassador for the BGSU athletic department and the university as a whole. He's guided student-athletes in a universally-positive way and has always conducted himself as a model for ethical behavior, both on and off the court.
As a man, he's been everything one could want from the leader of one of the school's premier athletic programs, and in that sense, he deserves to be at Bowling Green as long as he wants.
Unfortunately, in the hyper-competitive environment of NCAA Division I athletics, those metrics aren't the ones that count. The only one that does begins with a "w" and ends in an "n" and has a big "i" in the middle. That's right -- to stick around for very long, a coach has to win.
And let's be clear -- it's not that Orr has a losing pedigree. It's far from that. He was an assistant coach for three very successful tenures at Xavier, Providence and Syracuse. In those 10 years, his teams won 20 or more games six times, appeared in the NIT four times, and advanced to the NCAA Tournament six times.
He followed that stretch with a one-year stint as head coach at Siena, where he went 20-11 and tied for first place in the MAAC. He then went to Seton Hall and coached there for five years. As part of arguably the best basketball conference in the country at the time, he won 17 or more games three times and coached his teams to two NCAA Tournament appearances.
He was hired to replace Dan Dakich at Bowling Green prior to the 2007-2008 season. His debut season did not go as well as he might have hoped, as the Falcons finished 13-17. However, he followed that with a 19-14 season in 2008-2009. BGSU won the MAC Eastern Division and earned the #1 seed in the conference tournament before ultimately playing in the NIT.
However, it's been downhill ever since. BGSU slipped to 14-16 after their championship season, then to 14-19 during the 2010-2011 campaign. The team did rebound to 16-16 and an appearance in the 2012 Collegeinsider.com Tournament, but in the last two seasons, Bowling Green has gone 13-19 and now 12-19. Their next loss in 2014 will be their 20th of the season. It will be the team's first 20 loss season in eight years.
Orr is now 101-120 as BGSU's coach, and that includes a 69-89 mark in the last four seasons.
Perhaps the part of Orr's resume that disturbs fans the most is Bowling Green's 2-6 record in the MAC Tournament under his guidance. The team won just one game as the #1 seed in 2009 and lost first-round games at home in 2012 and 2013. Why is that such a thorn in the fans' collective side? BGSU's NCAA Tournament drought simply must be considered a primary reason. If the Falcons fail to reach the NCAAs this year, it will be the 46th straight season without an appearance. Bowling Green last reached the national tournament in 1968.
In Orr's defense, some of the issue with wins is that some players haven't worked out as well as expected during his tenure at BGSU. And, especially this season, injuries have ravaged the team at times. In the 2013-2014 season, Orr has been without Chauncey Orr for the entire year and has, at times, lost Zach Denny, Anthony Henderson and Craig Sealey. In a very competitive league like the MAC, it's hard to win when depth is such an issue.
I don't profess to speak for any other fans, and I know that BGSU's athletic teams will always have my support, no matter how they perform. I'm a die-hard. However, I do know that there is frustration there with the current situation, whether it's fair or not. That frustration is palpable when you consider the often-porous attendance at BGSU's Stroh Center.
Bowling Green athletics director Chris Kingston, who has been on the job for less than a year, has a very difficult decision on his hands. Regardless of the results, Orr's teams are always tough and competitive. In fact, it could be argued (in this season in particular) that his teams have often over-achieved. In my opinion, that's the hallmark of a good coach, not a bad one. However, as noted above, the results do ultimately matter, and when a decision has to be made regarding the renewal of Orr's contract, those results will be at the forefront of the discussion.
The ultimate question Kingston will have to answer for himself is whether or not the program will get better with a new coach. If the answer is yes, then the path is clear. it's doubtful that it could get better off the court; if anything, it could get worse. But is some sacrifice of off-the-court success in the name of wins necessary? When you consider the fan frustration and the revival of Toledo's program just a few miles north, the need to improve on the court appears to be glaring.
If I must make a guess, my gut feeling is that a change will be made, but it's one that this fan will watch with a heavy heart. Wins or not, Mr. Orr has been a valuable asset to Bowling Green, and once he's gone...if he's gone, his contributions will be sorely missed. I can guarantee you that much.