by RIKKILYNN SHIELDS, Assistant Editor
On Jan. 11, Tom O’Connor was named Manhattan College’s interim athletic director, replacing Noah LeFevre. O’Connor comes in with 40 years of experience, having served as the former athletic director at George Mason University, Loyola University in Maryland, Santa Clara University and St. Bonaventure University, as well as the former chair of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball championship committee, and president of Athletic Solutions Consulting.
The Quadrangle: Where are you from?
Tom O’Connor: I grew up in Union City, N.J.
TQ: What high school did you attend?
TOC: I attended St. Michael’s High School in Union City, N.J.
TQ: Did you do any sports in high school?
TOC: I played four sports in high school. I played football, basketball, baseball, and track and field. I was also fortunate enough to get a basketball scholarship to Assumption College.
TQ: What did you study in college?
TOC: I graduated with a degree in history with a minor in sociology. I planned to be a teacher and a high school coach. I was fortune enough to have done so and I was very pleased. One day, a good friend of mine who happened to grow up in the next town told me there was an opening at Dartmouth College. I applied for the job and was lucky enough to get it.
TQ: What did you do after college?
TOC: After attending Assumption College, I went on and became a teacher and a coach at Clinton High School in Massachusetts. From there I became the assistant basketball coach at Dartmouth College, and then the head basketball coach at Dartmouth. After a couple of years there I went to Loyola as the head basketball coach, then took over as director of athletics and I was there for 10 years. After that I went to Santa Clara University as the director of athletics from 1986 to 1982. I then came back east and became the director of athletics at St Bonaventure University for basically two years. My last stop was George Mason University where I was the assistant vice president and director of athletics.
TQ: A lot of people constantly ask, what exactly does an athletic director do?
TOC: We do a lot, quite frankly. You manage a department of people. It ranges anywhere from budget to fundraising to infrastructure issues to organizational charts to the most important, dealing with student athletes. You’re a person for all seasons and all encompassing. It’s never one day that’s the same, you always have something that’s different. You try to have an agenda for the day but that may go sideways on any particular day. However, you have to have goals and objectives and a plan. It’s mostly managing people and managing issues and ideas.
TQ: Do you like your position here at Manhattan College so far?
TOC: I think it’s fabulous. I’ve been very impressed with the people at the college and the administration, starting with the president. I’ve met a number of administrators on campus and they’re very welcoming and professional. The staff here, I’ve been extremely pleased with. The coaches have certainly been terrific as well. What really has impressed me is the student athletes and the student body as a whole. Even my wife has mentioned to me that Manhattan is just a really nice place to be. I feel it is very nurturing. The campus is beautiful but what makes a campus beautiful is the people, and if you’re walking around this campus talking to people you just get a good feeling that it’s a great place, which it is. Manhattan has exceeded my expectations. I had some thoughts about coming to the school, and I have been at a number of catholic colleges, and attended one, so I had some pre conceived notions of what being at a catholic school should be. As I said, it exceeded my expectations.
TQ: While you’re here, what are some things you think you can work on as the athletic director?
TOC: The first thing I had to do was get to know people, and that has been terrific. The second thing is just creating an infrastructure, and some policies and procedures, nothing too heavy, but just trying to get things in order and streamline some of the issues we have. I’m trying to create a systematic way of doing things and it has been very fruitful. My whole thrust has been the experience of the student athlete. That is the most important thing to me. We want to make sure that the student athlete has basic human needs; love, food, clothing, shelter, to make sure they feel comfortable physically, emotionally, and spiritually. All of the issues I talked about earlier, infrastructure, organizational charts or things like that still have to be referred to the student athlete because they are the most important part of the athletic program.
TQ: Any last words for the readers?
TOC: My door is always open. I know it’s a cliche, but it really is. I promise all the student athletes if they come in, I’ll get up from my desk and talk to them, whatever they want to talk about. Whether it be the weather, or something going on around here, we can close the door and talk. When you make a decision, don’t go in alone. Make sure you talk it out with people. The biggest thing I’m also trying to get across to the student athletes is the term “Respect for self. Respect for others.” When dealing with other people, you have to show respect. Certainly, you have to respect yourself first.