Q & A With Katie O?Connor
Katie O’Connor joined the Virginia women’s basketball staff in May after seven seasons as an assistant coach at Kansas. A native of Chapel Hill, N.C., and a former standout at Virginia Tech, O’Connor recently checked in with VirginiaSports.com to answer questions about herself and the first few months on the job.
Question: What first appealed to you about the opportunity to coach at Virginia?
O’Connor: The University of Virginia obviously has a wonderful academic reputation but also has the resources to be able to build a championship program. Also the opportunity to work with Joanne Boyle, who has been successful at every different level.
Question: What can you tell people about Coach Boyle?
O’Connor: Coach Boyle has a blueprint. She understands how to build things. She’s got a clear vision and always talks about, and I really value this, she only knows one way how to do things and that’s championship-level. That’s how we train, how we act. All of that at a championship level. If you do that and that is in your everyday life, then it leads to a winning atmosphere. She is all about that. As a head coach, she gives you the opportunity to grow as an assistant. If you’re in charge of something, then you’re the ‘head coach’ of that area. None of us are going to out-work her, which is invaluable. She’s a great coach on the floor, but she’s also a proven recruiter. Those things and that combination make her a great person to work for.
Coach Boyle is a players’ coach and her number one concern is what we can do to give the student-athletes the resources to make them as successful as they can be. In life, on the court, everywhere. For her, it’s about the game and about winning and she wants that next win just as much as everyone else does, but it’s important to do it the right way.
Question: Can you describe your coaching style?
O’Connor: I’m an energetic coach, I love to be on the floor with the players. If you do this for a living, that’s what you love first. I just want to get the best out of them everyday and we want to continue to get better everyday. I want them to be able to look at us and know that we believe in them and we believe that we can do great things here.
Question: What have you learned about your team in the last few months?
O’Connor: They want to be great. What they have done that has impressed me the most is they’ve embraced everything we have put on the table for them. I’ve had some great conversations with different players about some of their personal and team goals for next year. We’ll get into more of that as we head towards the fall, but their work ethic has been good. They want to win. In order to be successful, there are sacrifices you have to make and they have embraced that.
Question: What types of players are you looking for to recruit to play at Virginia?
O’Connor: We want winners. More than anything we want kids that understand how to win on the court, in the classroom and in life. Those are the type of players and student-athlete that this university attracts. We want people that understand and value the education that the University of Virginia provides, but that also want to win championships.
Question: What are some of the staff’s short- and long-term goals?
O’Connor: Short-term we want to instill confidence in these players. We’ve got to get a little bit better everyday. If we’re getting better everyday, person-to-person, player-to-player, as a team, then we’re headed in the right direction. In the long-term, we want to build a championship-level program. We want to win championships and we want to win them consistently.
Question: At Virginia Tech, you played in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen during your senior year. How do you impart your experience as a player to the student-athletes that you coach?
O’Connor: For me, what I want to be able to do is to give the players the same experience that I had. As a senior, my team was 28-3, we won a conference championship and went to the Sweet Sixteen. Those are memories that I will have forever. That was a very special time in my life. I want to be able to give that to our current and future players.
Question: What are some of your interests outside of basketball?
O’Connor: I like to be outdoors, I like to be active. Charlottesville is a great place in terms of recreation. I do have a boat, that’s fun for me. I have a yellow lab, so I like to play with her. Right now, with what we’re trying to do here, there’s not a ton of time, but I also enjoy spending time with my family. My father and his wife live out in Salt Lake City, Utah, so that’s a nice place to go visit when I’m able to get away.
Question: For those that don’t know, your father, Kevin, is the general manager of the Utah Jazz. What was it like growing up in a basketball family?
O’Connor: I was very fortunate to grow up in a basketball family. My father coached collegiately at several different places including the University of Colorado and UCLA where he had the opportunity to work with Larry Brown. He got into the NBA and worked with the Philadelphia 76ers and is now the GM of the Utah Jazz. I grew up in that arena, around the game. I never felt a pressure to be a part of the game, but I just loved it. This was kind of my natural path in life. It’s nice to be able to have sounding boards and be able to talk basketball with him.
Question: What sort of things will make Virginia successful?
O’Connor: We are the No. 2 public institution in the country. So the academics speak for themselves. If you simply walk into John Paul Jones Arena, you understand the commitment that there is to basketball here. The facilities and the resources – you have one of the top three training tables in the country, you have an academic center right in the arena, separate men’s and women’s practice courts. Players here have first-class opportunities to train. Past that point, we work hard to provide opportunities to be able to travel first-class and get the players back to go to class the day after a road game. Opportunities to go to Hawaii and for a foreign tour – all of those things exist here. There’s a commitment that you can feel everyday from the administration.