Lorene “Butch” Moore: All-American Red Head

The death of Lorene “Butch” Moore, 76, this past April in Caraway, Arkansas marked the passing of an important link in the slender chain of women’s basketball history. Moore amassed 35,426 points in 11 seasons with the All-American Red Heads – a team that barnstormed across the United States between 1936 and 1986.

Moore and her husband, Orwell, 84, joined the Red Heads in 1948 – she as a player, he as coach. The Red Heads played full court basketball by men’s rules, playing 175-200 games a season. Made up of high school All-Americans and college standouts and sporting “red” (real and dyed) hair, the players were serious about winning: From 1936-73, they never won less than 100 games a year. In 1953, they won 134 games. In 1972, multiple All-American Red Heads teams won 558 games and lost 84 – all against men’s teams. “We wanted to show the crowd that we could play basketball,” says Coach Moore. “And if you couldn’t play basketball, you better stay home.”

Crisscrossing the heartland of the country, the Red Heads won over fans with a combination of skill, charm and showmanship. During the half-time show, for instance, Moore would get on her knees and sink 25 free throws in a row. She could also dribble up and when she went for the lay-up bounce it off her head and into the hoop. A great pivot, Coach Moore remembers his wife as “a dynamic basketball player with a dynamic personality and a lot of quick wit.” At about 5’7″, Moore was an uncanny passer who drove opponents to distraction with her shooting ability.

Coach Moore recalls one particularly memorable moment during a game when Moore had already scored 33 points. “The boy who was guarding her – when they threw the ball in to her at pivot – he just grabbed her up and run her out of bounds,” laughs the coach. “He ran her off out of fun and called, ‘Time out! You’re out of bounds!'”

Being part of the team was a deep source of pride for both Coach Moore and his wife. Honored by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association in 1996, the All-American Red Heads have a permanent exhibit in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. It’s something Coach Moore knows in his heart the players deserved, not just because of their skill, but because of the sense of team and family they had.

“I want to be remembered as a Christian,” Coach Moore remembers his wife telling him. “I want to be remembered as a citizen of the United States. And I want to be remembered as an All American Red Head.”

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