Basketball Coach John O'Connor Caught on Tape Kicking, Pushing Player

Holy Family basketball coach and 19-year-old player confront each other on GMA.

ByABC News
February 24, 2011, 9:29 AM

Feb. 24, 2011 — -- A college basketball coach caught on tape roughing up a player during practice said that his behavior was an "accident."

John O'Connor, 51, was suspended by Holy Family University officials after 19-year-old Matt Kravchuk filed a police report, claiming that the coach elbowed and backhanded him, leaving him with a bloody nose and scrapes to his head and lip.

The two confronted each other live on "Good Morning America" today.

"Matt, this was an accident. I was just trying to make this a better team, make us more competitive and in doing so an accident happened and it was unintentional by me. I'm really sorry that it happened," O'Connor told Kravchuk.

Kravchuk, a college sophomore, wasn't buying the apology.

"To be honest, it's kind of hard to accept your apology, just because you claim it's justified, you claim you weren't crossing the line. ... As your player I'm supposed to be able to respect you and I don't feel I can do that anymore," Kravchuk said.

Video of the Jan. 25 practice shows O'Connor pushing Kravchuk to the ground during a practice drill. O'Connor can be seen forcefully grabbing a basketball from Kravchuk's hands as he pushes the student to the ground. Then, he walks towards Kravchuk, 19, and kicks him.

"I didn't really see it coming. It just caught me by surprise," Kravchuk said.

O'Connor can be heard cursing at the player, saying, 'Get the [expletive] out of here.'

"I just feel that I was a coach and I was trying to get my team more competitive and in doing so I made a mistake," O'Connor said.

ABC News sports contributor Christine Brennan said that coaches can't blur the line between pushing their players hard and harming them.

"There's a line between tough, hard competition and doing things that are completely out of bounds and this is a line that one person in particular needs to know and that's the head coach," Brennan said.

O'Connor, the former assistant coach at Georgia Tech, said that the team had just suffered a tough loss and that his actions were part of a combat rebounding drill that the players were doing at the time of the incident.

"The drill itself is, you're supposed to continue to try to keep the drill going, so as he goes down, I'm trying to get them to stay competitive and keep the drill going so I just nudged him with my foot to try to keep him kind of moving in the drill," O'Connor said.