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NEWS: Howard Payne men’s basketball hires Thomas Orr as associate head coach

Photo of Thomas Orr (center) by Russell Marwitz/True To The Cru/

BROWNWOOD, Texas-Thomas Orr, a UMHB alum and an assistant coach for the UMHB men’s basketball program for the last three seasons, is departing Belton. Howard Payne announced the hiring of Orr as the men’s basketball program’s next associate head coach on Monday in a press release.

“Coach Orr is going to be a tremendous asset to our program,” HPU head coach Nadir Dalleh said in the release.  “The knowledge and experience he will bring to the table are invaluable.  We are extremely excited to get started!”

In all three seasons under the leadership of head coach Clif Carroll, Orr was a fixture on the UMHB staff. He came to Belton prior to the 2020-21 season after one year at the University of the Ozarks, helping the Eagles to an ASC Tournament title. 

The last four teams Orr coached with went on to win either the ASC Regular Season or ASC Tournament titles. UMHB won the West Division in 2020-21 with the best record in the league, then followed that by taking home both the league’s regular season and tournament titles in 2021-22. In 2022-23, the Cru captured the ASC regular season title once again, and reached the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament. 

“Getting to the national championship, unfortunately losing, that’s what really lit the fire that burns every single day,” said Orr in a Feb. 19, 2021 True To The Cru feature story. “This school, this program deserves a national championship. I just want to be a part of that.”

Prior to that, he spent two seasons as an assistant at Texas Lutheran. 

Orr’s notoriety in Belton stemmed from his prowess as a player, as the Hutto native led UMHB to the 2013 D-III national title game, the deepest NCAA Tournament run in program history. He played in the purple and gold from 2011-13, averaging 15.1 points per game as a senior. A picture of him dunking during that 2013 season is plastered on the wall in the hallway outside the UMHB locker room, and Orr often had a unique perspective when talking with prospective recruits, considering his experience at UMHB from both perspectives, as a student-athlete and as a coach. 

“My story is a little different,” said Orr told True To The Cru in 2021. “I transferred in as a junior. I’ve been through every position that you could possibly be in. Being the new guy, being at the end of the bench, coming to practice everyday just trying to find the motivation to play hard, and compete, all the way to my senior year, starting, leading the team in scoring, going all the way to the national championship. 

“That helps me with recruiting, it helps me with coaching the guys we already have, because I’ve been in every shoe, so I can relate to those guys and tell them, from experience, how I handled it, and how they can do better and thrive.”

The news of Orr’s hiring at HPU comes just over a week after former UMHB interim women’s basketball head coach Kendra Foreman was tabbed as the associate head coach of the women’s program at HPU. Foreman, who led the UMHB women’s team to a 6-4 record in her short stint at the helm of the program, is also a UMHB alum, meaning the Yellow Jacket basketball programs each now have a former UMHB coach on their staff heading into the upcoming season.

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