Friday, February 25, 2011
Posted: 5:30 p.m. Updated: 7:14 p.m.
By Dan Gelston
The Associated Press
John O'Connor had his reputation forever stained by 40 seconds of videotape.
It cost him his job at Holy Family.
He only hopes he hasn't lost his career.
O'Connor wants to coach again, even after his first season at tiny Division II Holy Family was cut short after a videotape of a physical incident during a "combat rebounding" drill hit the Internet. His failed attempt at repairing his relationship with Matt Kravchuk caused him to resign Thursday night, a day before Holy Family's regular-season finale.
O'Connor knows what he'd tell university officials potentially concerned about the altercation if he's ever offered another coaching job.
"I never want to change my passion and my intensity toward the game and how I teach it," he said by phone Friday. "I certainly would take a look at how I might deliver it. I don't want to change the passion, but maybe how it's delivered is something I certainly would look at."
He described his life over the last month as both a "nightmare" and like being in a "plane wreck." O'Connor believed he'd still be on the sideline, calling plays, barking instructions, had it not been for the video leaked to local news.
"When they kind of hung and buried me without due process, it made it difficult for me and my team to really kind of go on as we had," O'Connor said.
O'Connor and Kravchuk became instant media sensations when footage of the incident went viral.
O'Connor apologized to Kravchuk when they appeared Thursday on ABC's "Good Morning America." On the morning show, O'Connor apologized. Kravchuk did not accept it.
Once it became clear the relationship could not be salvaged, O'Connor called his team together for an off-campus meeting and resigned.
Holy Family issued a statement Friday that it had accepted O'Connor's resignation. Holy Family athletic director Sandra Michael did not return requests for comment.
Holy Family forward Sam Mushman said the team supported O'Connor and wanted him to return.
"He's going to fight for us to the end," Mushman said. "No matter what happens, he was on our side and be there for us."
Holy Family guard Nate Hodge took to Twitter on Thursday night and Friday to express his unhappiness over the decision. In a response to a Twitter question, Hodge wrote, "... o'connor was the best coach I ever had."
When a follower wrote, "tell your ex-teammate to man up," Hodge replied "tell me about it."
O'Connor was touched by the support.
"When I was condemned without due process, they helped me get through it," he said.
Kravchuk said he attended the school to play basketball and now he couldn't, claiming he suffered a wrist injury in the dust-up. He also said he couldn't play for O'Connor.
According to a police report filed on Feb. 11, Kravchuk said he was grabbed and elbowed in the face by O'Connor, a move that allegedly resulted in a bloody nose and a bruised lip. The office's Private Criminal Complaints Unit reviewed the matter, and determined the event does not constitute a prosecutable criminal offense.
Attempts to reach Kravchuk's attorney were not successful.
O'Connor's life has been in upheaval since the drill backfired on him. He was shown pushing Kravchuk to the ground during a 1-on-1 drill, then kicked him. O'Connor berates his player and tosses him out of the late January practice.
O'Connor, on GMA, repeatedly called the encounter an accident, saying he also "nudged" Kravchuk with his foot to keep the drill going.
Philadelphia 76ers forward Thaddeus Young played under O'Connor at Georgia Tech and they exchanged texts on Friday. Young had run the rebounding drill with O'Connor and called the incident "blown out of proportion."
"He's just trying to make the guys tougher," Young said. "He didn't really mean to do anything like that. I saw him nudge the guy off the court. I know the drill, so I know it was to get the next group onto the court."
Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said his former assistant should not be judged on "40 seconds" of a conflict with a player. O'Connor spent the previous seven seasons at Georgia Tech working under Hewitt. Hewitt calls O'Connor "one of the best human beings I've been around, ever."
"I think it's a shame, a real shame, that people who don't know what he's about, don't know what he stands for, are making these summation on his character and what kind of person he is," Hewitt said.
Hewitt said he's known O'Connor since 1992 and had never seen the coach engage in similar behavior. He hopes the blowup won't cost O'Connor his career.
O'Connor started at Georgia Tech as men's basketball director of operations for the 2004-05 season. In June 2005, he was elevated to an assistant coach.
"I'm not going to sit here and defend anything," Hewitt said. "I'm just saying this man is a really good honest man."
Mushman also felt bad for Kravchuk.
"I don't think either Coach or Matt thought this was going to get to where it got," he said. "I have no issues or problem with Matt. Matt's a good kid. Maybe he felt disrespected."
O'Connor, a Penn State graduate, also was an assistant coach at Drexel and Lafayette.
He defended turning over the tape as the right thing to do because he felt he had nothing to hide. He apologized to Kravchuk and the team and believed it was all behind them.
Instead, Kravchuk and O'Connor's careers imploded on YouTube where the highlight can be found under "Holy Family Coach Attacks Player."
"My players know I tape every practice," he said. "If they ever found out one was missing, it would be saying I did something wrong."
He's received an outpouring of support from his peers. But O'Connor understands why critics who have never played competitive basketball have denounced him for the outburst. He wants to prove he's not a crazed coach who doesn't care about his players.
"I'm a good coach," he said. "There's nothing you could throw at me as head coach now I haven't been through.
"I'm not sure what's going to happen."
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