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

Holy Family coach resigned after learning the DA would not press charges.

February 25, 2011, 10:13 AM

Feb. 25, 2011 — -- A college basketball player who accused his Holy Family University coach of pushing and kicking him during a practice session suffered a torn ligament in his wrist as a result of the incident that was captured on video, the player's lawyer said today.

The coach, John O'Connor, whom the Pennsylvania school had suspended because of the accusation, resigned Thursday after learning that prosecutors agreed not to press charges against him.

O'Connor's resignation also came after his apology to former player Matt Kravchuk was rebuffed this week on "Good Morning America." Kravchuk, 19, had filed a police report.

Holy Family forward Sam Mushman said O'Connor, 51, informed the team Thursday that he would step down, according to the Associated Press.

"I would have thought it would have gone a little longer before we found a solution," Mushman said. "It was obviously very upsetting to hear. I'm still kind of, not in shock, but just taking it all in right now."

The decision came after O'Connor, 51, learned he will not face criminal charges from the Philadelphia District Attorney's office.

Jack Cohen, Kravchuk's attorney, said, "My client's feeling is that the DA makes the decisions if there's enough for a criminal count. They made that decision and he takes that as it is.

"Matthew was diagnosed with a TFC tear in his wrist and will require surgery. It is from the assault."

The Kravchuk family has no plans to sue for the injury, Cohen said.

O'Conner apologized on the show to Kravchuk, whom he elbowed and backhanded, leaving him with a bloody nose and scrapes to his head and lip. But Kravchuk did not accept his apology.

"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.

On a video of the Jan. 25 practice 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.

College Basketball Player Claims Coach Attacked Him

Kravchuk felt like it was much more than a nudge. He e-mailed the school's athletic director the day of the practice and met with her the next day.

"She reassured me that action would be taken, at least some sort of action. So I continued to go to practice at least for the next few weeks and then when I realized that nothing had been done, me and my parents met with her again," Kravchuk said.

The college student and his family felt that the punishment against O'Connor was not severe enough, so Kravchuk filed a police report.

O'Connor said that he was reprimanded by the school and that he had already apologized to Kravchuk and the team by the time the college sophomore and his family filed the police report.

The college student said that O'Connor did apologize to him and the team, but it wasn't enough.

Other members of the Holy Family basketball team have come to the coach's defense, writing a letter supporting O'Connor.

"It's easier for them to accept his apology when it never happened to any of them," said Kravchuk. "I just want some action taken and I felt the university owed it to me to take some sort of action and when they didn't I took it to the police."

Kravchuk no longer plays for the team. O'Connor has been suspended from coaching as the investigation continues. No criminal charges have been filed against him. The Holy Family men's basketball team lost their most recent game.

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