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O’Connor will retire at the end of the seasonFebruary 13, 2015
Rockhurst University head men’s basketball coach Bill O’Connor announced Friday, Feb. 13, that he will retire at the conclusion of the 2014-15 season. Currently in his 21st year leading the Hawks’ program, O’Connor is Rockhurst’s all-time winningest men’s basketball coach, with 271 victories.
Eleven of O’Connor’s teams advanced to postseason play, highlighted by three NCAA Division II Tournament appearances. In 2002, the Hawks finished 24-6 and won two games in the NCAA Tournament to advance to the NCAA South Central Regional championship game in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Rockhurst also made trips to the NCAA Tournament in 2007 and 2009 in Findlay, Ohio.
“I felt like this was as good a time as any to retire,” said O’Connor. “Rockhurst has been a great place to work. It has been the best job I have ever had. I have loved every minute here. I want to thank the Rockhurst community. It is a special school with special people. I wish them all the best.”
Director of Athletics Gary Burns will immediately begin the search for Rockhurst’s next head men’s basketball coach.
“Coach O’Connor has been a wonderful representative of Rockhurst University for 26 years as both an assistant and head coach, not only as an excellent basketball coach, but a great leader of young men. Bill lives the Jesuit mission of Rockhurst to the fullest, and has provided wonderful opportunities to his players over the years,” Burns said.
O’Connor, who became the Hawks’ all-time winningest coach during the 2009-10 season, is also the school record holder in career games coached, currently at 583, and ranks as the longest tenured head basketball coach in school history. He played a pivotal role in Rockhurst transitioning from the NAIA to NCAA Division II status in the late 1990s.
During his 21 years at Rockhurst, O’Connor’s teams recorded a 155-114 (.576) home record, including a 60-59 (.504) home mark in conference play as the Hawks have been members of the Heartland and Great Lakes Valley Conferences.
O’Connor has been named conference coach of the year three times during his Rockhurst tenure, winning the Heartland honor in 2002 and 2003, while being named the GLVC Coach of the Year in 2009. Rockhurst’s most successful run under O’Connor was from 2000 to 2003, as the Hawks posted a 59-26 record and shared Heartland Conference regular season titles in 2002 and 2003.
Overall, O’Connor has coached 13 all-conference players at Rockhurst who have won the award a total of 23 times, while 54 players have earned academic all-conference honors since 2006 and 25 players have been named to the NABC Honors Court since 2007 under O’Connor’s leadership. His teams received the GLVC Sportsmanship Award for three consecutive years (2007-10).
O’Connor began his coaching career as the head coach at Kansas' Jefferson County North High School in 1972. He spent 10 years in high school coaching before becoming an assistant coach at Rockhurst University from 1982-86. He served five years as the head coach at Colby Community College in Kansas, one year as an assistant coach at Texas-Pan American University and another year as an assistant coach at Rockhurst prior to being named the Hawks’ head coach in 1994.
O’Connor graduated from St. Benedict’s College, now Benedictine College, in 1972 with a bachelor’s degree in history, and received his master’s in education from Emporia State University. O’Connor and his wife Elaine have four children: Trish, Chris, Anna and Caitlin.