Legendary basketball coach Orsmond Jordan dies at 82

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The 1963-64 Lanier High basketball team national champions. Coach Orsmond E. Jordan Jr. seated far right.

Orsmond E. Jordan Jr. – one of the most successful coaches in Mississippi high school basketball history – has died after a long illness. He was 82.

Jordan’s remarkable career began during segregated times in Mississippi and continued long after integration.

His 1963-64 Lanier High team easily rates as one of the greatest in Magnolia State history. The Bulldogs won 43 games, lost none, averaged nearly 100 points a game and won a post-season national championship tournament for all-black high schools.

That team received a scant three paragraphs in The Clarion-Ledger, the statewide newspaper, after winning the national title.

But years later, after integration, Jordan’s teams earned big headlines and he was four times named Mississippi’s high school coach of the year by the same newspaper.

His Murrah teams won four state championships (1970, 1986, 1991, 1992). They were known for their up-tempo style of play and ball-hawking, pressing zone defense.

Jordan’s teams won more than 700 games, and he coached seven All-Americans, eight future NBA players and three McDonald’s All-Stars.

Jordan’s teams achieved 14 20-win seasons, four 30-win seasons and the one 40-win season.

Jordan’s list of Murrah standouts reads like a Who’s Who of Mississippi basketball: Ricky Short, Jesse Pate, Kenny O’Bannon, Donnal Allen, Knovin Hamilton, Ronnie Henderson, Othello Harrington, James Robinson and Lindsey Hunter, among others.

Melanie Thortis

Rick Cleveland

At Lanier, Jordan coached Cornell Warner, who would go on to become one of Jackson State’s greatest players and then an eight-year standout in the NBA. But that Lanier team was so deep and talented that Warner was the third man off the bench.

“I had the best seat in the house for one of the best teams in history,” Warner once said.

“That team knew how to play basketball,” Warner said. “Our basketball intelligence was off the charts. We just loved the game.”

Jordan was the taskmaster, who insisted on sound fundamental basketball played at breakneck speed.

“That team from half a century ago could play with the best teams now,” Jordan said in 2013 when the Lanier team was honored at a banquet at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. “That was a special team.”

Forty-nine years after their national championship, Jordan’s Bulldogs received national championship rings, jackets and were feted at a championship parade.

Jordan, himself, was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.

He was a Decatur native and a star basketball player at Alcorn State, where he was classmates with civil rights champion Medgar Evers.

At Alcorn (1951-55), Jordan earned three letters and scored 1,124 points.

Services are pending.

Rick Cleveland is Mississippi Today’s sports columnist. Read his previous columns and his Sports Daily blog. Reach Rick at rcleveland@mississippitoday.org.

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