Coach Charles Orsborn Dies at Age 99

May 7, 2017

Charles “Ozzie” Orsborn, who helped put Bradley into the national spotlight as a student-athlete, coach and athletic director, died Sunday morning in Naples, Florida. He was 99.

A letterwinner in four sports as a student-athlete (baseball, basketball, football and track & field), Orsborn helped put Bradley Athletics on the national map as a member of the Famous Five men’s basketball teams that played in the first two National Invitational Tournaments in 1938 and 1939 and earned an invitation to the inaugural NCAA Tournament in 1939.

Signed by baseball’s New York Yankees after graduation, Orsborn spent one year in the minor leagues before he was drafted into the military in 1941 during World War II. Entering as a private, he eventually served five full years in the service, retiring with his years in the Reserve as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force.

Orsborn returned to his alma mater as an assistant coach for the Bradley basketball program from 1947 to 1956, a run that included NCAA Tournament runner-up finishes in 1950 and 1954. He took over as the program’s head coach from 1956 to 1965, a nine-year stretch that produced a 194-56 (.776) record and three NIT championships (1957, 1960 and 1964). The 1960 and 1962 Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year, Orsborn earned his first 100 victories in just 120 games, which is still tied for sixth in NCAA Division I history for the fewest number of games required to achieve 100 wins.

Overall, Orsborn guided the Braves to six finishes in the Associated Press Top 20 rankings during his nine-year spell leading the basketball program, including four times in the top 10. BU twice reached second in the poll, including once after fourth-ranked Bradley defeated No. 1 Cincinnati and Oscar Robertson on Jan. 16, 1960, 91-90 – which was voted as the school’s Game of the Century.

Inducted into both the NIT and Missouri Valley Conference Halls of Fame, Orsborn was selected the Bradley basketball Coach of the Century during the program’s 100-year celebration in 2002. Following his coaching career, he served as the school’s Director of Athletics from 1965 to 1978.

The highest award presented annually to a Bradley University student-athlete is named in honor of Orsborn. The Charles Orsborn Award (formerly the Watonga Award) recognizes a graduating senior with the ability to combine athletic and academic success with community service.

Orsborn was preceded in death by his wife, Janet, and his sons, Charles Jr. and James. He is survived by his daughter, Carolyn.