Sitting at his desk in G200, Bill O’Connor leans back in his grey swivel chair, looking up at the wall decorations as he reminisces over the most difficult thing he has had to do. “I would say firing a coach is the most difficult thing I’ve had to do. I mean, you hired them and you want them to succeed, but unfortunately it doesn’t always turn out that way.”
O’Connor has been the athletic director of Bellevue College for nine years, replacing Rick Turner, the former A.D. and head coach of the men’s basketball team in 2003.
Prior to taking over as the Bellevue College athletic director, O’Connor worked in the seafood business for 23 years. He was also the head basketball coach at Seattle University for six seasons from 1972-77 and prior to that served as an assistant coach on the Providence College men’s team.
In 1963, O’Connor, out of Canisius College, was selected in the third round (18 overall) by the New York Knicks. That same draft produced Hall of Fame members Gus Johnson and Nate Thurmond.
Today, O’Connor sits in his office working to find ways to improve Bellevue College sports. In the winter season when only basketball dominates the calendar, fundraising occupies most of O’Connor’s time.
Hanging in the gym rafters are banners for N.W. Volleyball, Friends of Hoop and several others. These are what O’Connor calls “boosters,” organizations that have donated at least $5,000 over a three-year period to the athletic department.
Gym rentals play another big role in fundraising for the sports teams. The Bellevue College Gymnasium is currently hosting games from the Kingco high school basketball playoffs and will begin hosting games for the Sea-King playoffs starting on Feb. 14. O’Connor was also able to have Bellevue awarded four games as one of the regional sites for games on Feb. 24 and 25.
Bellevue College athletics are seeing the fruits of O’Connor’s labor in fundraising. Recently, the softball field was renovated to include fully enclosed dugouts and a new fence. He has also played an intricate role in upgrading the men’s baseball locker room and adding another women’s basketball locker room.
As the men and women’s basketball season head for the playoffs, O’Connor believes both teams have a chance at making a run.
“I think both teams have potential. This year’s women’s team is one of the better ones we’ve had. The players on both teams just get along really well and when there’s that kind of chemistry, a team can go far,” he says.
Despite the successes of many Bellevue College sports teams and the efforts of O’Connor, attendance and spirit for school sporting events remains low. O’Connor says, “I understand that a lot of students, between work and school, don’t have much time for anything else.”
I’ve seen the BC gym overcrowded and packed with fans screaming for their team to play defense. Unfortunately, those are all for high school games. O’Connor continues to work at his desk in G200, improving BC athletics and hoping that student support will soon follow.