Thursday, February 24, 2011

J. O'Connor and HFU: Perfect Together


Not to make light of a serious incident (the university already has done that), but the best part was the coach's defense.

The head coach of the men's basketball team of Holy Family University in Philadelphia conducted an early-morning rebounding drill Tuesday, January 25. three days after a 15-point loss to Concordia College. Notwithstanding an apparently damning video, Coach John O'Connor explained away his behavior in an interview with Philadelphia Inquirer staff:

"But what happened was him and another player had been competing for three or four balls. As I threw one more up, they went for it and the ball was knocked outside the circle. What I like them to do is just leave the ball alone. But Matt had gone to get the basketball. I went to get the basketball, and then I went to grab the ball out of his hand, and I unintentionally made contact with him."

The coach then, according to the video, kicked at the prone player and yelled.

"You're trying to continue the drill, and you're trying to get things to move as rapid as possible," he said. "So all I'm doing is I give him a nudge with my foot just to get him to continue, to get up so we can continue the drill."

Seconds later, the sophomore forward, his lip bloodied, arose. As Kravchuk moved away, O'Connor's yelling persisted. The player continued to talk to an assistant, presumably to discuss the incident and let him know he had injured a wrist trying to break his fall. At that point, O'Connor dismissed him from practice.

"As he gets up, I'm just continuing the drill," he said. "It's nothing between me and Matt. But I hear him and one of my assistants continuing to talk behind me. So I kind of turn around and basically say, 'What's going on?' And he says, 'I've got a bloody nose.' And I was kind of like, 'Good, that's what the drill is all about. That's the drill.' And then I just turn and continue the drill again. And then I hear Matt still talking back there, and just to defuse everything, I throw him out of the gym."

Later that day, O'Connor brought Kravchuk into the coach's office- his turf- and said he was sorry, as he explained to the other players afterward. But Kravchuk explained today on ABC's Good Morning America that he

e-mailed a note about the incident to Holy Family University's athletic director and later met with her and was assured some action would be taken. That's why he continued going to practice, Kravchuk said. When the athletic director wouldn't tell Kravchuk or his family what was done, he said he decided to pursue the matter.

The family's attorney told the Inquirer that his client contacted the district attorney's office in Philadelphia (which has not decided whether to file charges) only after Kravchuk's parents met with the university's vice president and president and received an inadequate response.

Following the altercation, O'Connor coached the team for five more games. Five more games, When the incident became public with the report (video, below) from the local Fox affilate on February 19, the University swung into action, boldly suspending- not discharging- an employee who evidently had committed an assault on the job, in the workplace. (Try assaulting a fellow employee or a client in your workplace; no, don't.)

When the coach and the player (both with counsel) squared off on Good Morning America, George Stephanopoulos couldn't resist the temptation for the "feelings" moment morning television is so good at. Prompting O'Connor to address Kravchuck, the coach said

Matt, this was an accident. I was just trying to make us a better team that's more competitive and in doing so an accident happened. It was unintentional by me, and I'm really sorry that it happened. If I could take it back I certainly would. But, again, it was an accident and I'm really sorry that it happened.

If nothing else, this carried the advantage of being consistent with comments he made to the Inquirer. "I would never hurt one of my players," contended the guy who also maintained

As he gets up, I'm just continuing the drill," he said. "It's nothing between me and Matt. But I hear him and one of my assistants continuing to talk behind me. So I kind of turn around and basically say, 'What's going on?' And he says, 'I've got a bloody nose.' And I was kind of like, 'Good, that's what the drill is all about. That's the drill.' And then I just turn and continue the drill again. And then I hear Matt still talking back there, and just to defuse everything, I throw him out of the gym."

It's heartening to hear O'Connor say that he wouldn't ever "hurt one of my players" after being pleased one suffered a bloody nose: "Good, that's what the drill is all about." And he was so sorry that he continued the drill while tossing out of the gym the player whom he appears to have assaulted.

The final verdict isn't in on Holy Family University. And give Mr. O'Connor due process, which he deserves and which, if a union member (Governor Walker take note) he will get. But he reportedly, while on the university's dime and at the workplace, committed unprovoked violence against an individual. The university tried to ignore the incident and the alleged perpetrator now says that he made a "mistake," probably because he could lose his job over it. But shoving the player- followed by a kick and a macho-infused ejection from the court- was "accidental."

The Holy Family University basketball team is now 6-20 (6-19 with O'Connor). Perhaps John O'Connor and the complacent institution which employs him deserve each other.






Update: 2:00 pm., 2/24/11: A local radio station reports that a spokesman for Holy Family University has stated that Coach O'Connor will not face disciplinary charges.

Stay classy, Holy Family.

Update II, 5:49 p.m. I was mistaken. Apparently, District Attorney Seth Williams of Philadelphia has announced that his office will be taking no action. Mr. O'Connor remains suspended (the duration has not been revealed) by the University. Still a chance for Holy Family to become classy.




2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Strike one: The shoulder hit.

Strike two: The kick.

Strike three: The subsequent comments.

The coach was prolly on rhoids and was probably beaten by a nun in grade school.

Anonymous said...

He's been forced to resign, so please do give the school some credit.

The police however seemed to think it was no big deal. According to reports, the local cop's Private Criminal Complaints Unit reviewed the matter, and determined the event did not constitute a prosecutable criminal offense.

Some folks say he was a good and decent coach aside from those 40 seconds on tape. I can understand that might be possible, but his subsequent apologies to the player have sounded forced and more like embattled excuses, indicative that he didn't really learn the right lesson here. Maybe at some point he will. Let's hope for his sake and for the sake of his players if he ever gets another coaching job.

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