By Wyatt Earp | February 24, 2011
BlackOrchid mentioned this story today, so I figured I’d add my $0.02. This is John O’Connor and Matt Kravchuck. O’Connor is the head coach of the Holy Family University basketball team and Matt is one of his players.
Kravchuk filed criminal charges against O’Connor for knocking him down and kicking him during a practice. There is video of the incident, which I posted below the fold. The two appeared on Good Morning America today, with their lawyers, to hash things out.
O’Connor, at the urging of co-host George Stephanopoulos, looked directly at the student and said: “Matt, this was an accident. I was just trying to make us a better team and make us more competitive. . . . I’m really sorry that it happened. If I could take it back, I would.”
“To be honest it’s kind of hard to accept your apology,” Kravchuk replied. “I can’t play for you any more. As your player I’m supposed to respect you, and I can’t do that anymore.”
Kravchuk seemed to stand by the criminal complaint he filed with the Philadelphia district attorney’s office, explaining that he felt the school was slow to take any disciplinary action.
See? I’m siding with the coach almost immediately after that. O’Connor apologized to Kravchuk and he refused to accept the apology – probably because he is looking to get paid. I think that exchange tells you a lot about both men.
Here is O’Connor’s explanation of the incident:
O’Connor explained he was conducting a “combat rebounding drill” to help the players learn to be tougher. Before the incident, the practice video – a routine taping somehow leaked to Fox29 on Saturday – shows drill Kravchuk and another player repeatedly banging into each other as the coach bounced balls off the rim.
A ball fell between Kravchuk and O’Connor, and the coach moved in, lifting an arm, grabbing the ball, and bumping the player to the ground. To some, the contact looks like an intentional shoving, with the kicking motion seeming to reinforce the appearance of anger.
“I just nudged him with my foot to kind of get him to keep moving in his drill,” O’Connor said on GMA.
As many of you know, I coached high school lacrosse for 18 years, so I know a thing or two about player-coach interaction. In coaching, one of the first rules you need to learn is that players and coaches are human. They will make mistakes. You don’t jump on a player for a “good faith” mistake, like slashing an opponent while trying to get the ball. You do jump on a player for a “lazy” mistake, such as shooting five feet wide of the net because a player rushed a shot.
If one of my players made a good faith mistake, I would tell them about it when the got to the sidelines. If one of my players made a lazy mistake, they – and everyone else on the field – would know about it immediately, because I would be verbally ripping them a new arse from the sidelines. Lazy players need a thrashing now and then, and I have done pretty much everything from screaming at players, to grabbing their face-masks and pulling them to me, to smothering them with relentless sarcasm.
Maybe I’m old school, but when I grew up you expected a coach’s wrath when you frakked up. If a coach got in your face, you took the abuse, sucked up and moved on. Pushing, shoving, etc. were accepted. Unless the coach punched you in the face, no one made a big deal out of it.
To me, this incident falls into the above category. To me, it looks like O’Connor is trying to motivate his players generally, and Kravchuk specifically. But abuse? Assault? No, I don’t see that here.
Kravchuk said previously that he suffered a bloody nose, a hurt wrist and facial cuts during the incident.
If Kravchuk’s worst “injury” is a bloody nose – an injury he could receive at any time on a basketball court – then O’Connor’s drill was completely appropriate. The players – especially Kravchuk – needed a little toughening up.
To me, this looks like the coach inserted himself in the drill to prove a point about how tough grabbing a rebound can be. The kick? Please. He barely touched him.
But that’s just me. Discuss.