By Megan Dierberger – [email protected]
“My dad has always told me that when an opportunity presents itself, it’s up to you what you want to do with that opportunity,” SJU basketball assistant coach Connor O’Brien said.
O’Brien did exactly that.
For the 2016-17 basketball season, the assistant basketball coach was named one of the Under Armour 30-under-30 honorees.
This award names the top 30 assistant coaches from Division I, II and III who are
under the age of 30. The National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) made the announcement on April 18.
O’Brien grew up in New Prague, Minnesota with his parents and two brothers. His younger brother, Trevor, was also a Johnnie.
The St. John’s assistant coach has been playing basketball as long as he can remember.
“My family was always very involved with sports,” O’Brien said.
His dad was the head football coach for New Prague High School, so O’Brien played a variety of sports, but basketball soon became the top priority.
“As I grew taller, basketball started to become my focus,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien played basketball for New Prague High School and was named First-Team All-Missota Conference during his senior season, averaging 18.9 points per game.
He then played Division II basketball for Mankato State University from 2009-2014.
He was a member of three Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) Championship teams and three NCAA Division II tournament teams for the
Mavericks, which included a 2011 Final Four.
He majored in sports management and received his master’s degree in 2014-15.
After a strong personal career, O’Brien brought his basketball knowledge and skills to the sidelines.
“My passion has always been involved in something with sports,” O’Brien said. “I love being a part of a team. I’ve always been a very competitive person and coaching allows me to do that.”
O’Brien began his coaching career as an assistant for the Rochester Mayo High School boys basketball team in 2014-15. He finished his second year as an assistant coach for the Johnnies this season.
Although he only has three seasons under his belt, he’s made many memories.
“Beating SCSU the first game of last season, winning both games in Colorado this season and beating St. Thomas on the road to advance to the Conference Championship this season [were a few highlights],” O’Brien said.
The Johnnies finished fourth in the MIAC with a 13-7 record this season. They advanced to the MIAC Playoff Championship game for the 12th time in history.
David Stokman, a sophomore guard, says O’Brien brings competitiveness to the team.
“Connor wants to win and will do whatever it takes to get there,” Stokeman said. “Additionally, he always brings positive energy to our practices. If the day ends in ‘Y’ you can bet Connor is bringing a positive attitude.”
His personality and knowledge all form a perfect package, which has helped the Johnnies get where they are.
“Connor dedicates a lot of his time to player development within our program,” junior guard Patrick Strom said. “He keeps us motivated at practice and is always very knowledgeable about our opponents to help us prepare for games.”
O’Brien feels grateful for this recognition.
“I’ve never been big on individual awards because basketball is such a team sport,” O’Brien said. “Coach McKenzie has given me a great opportunity here and without a great team and great coaching staff my name wouldn’t be up there.”