Daily Herald
Buffalo Grove’s O’Connor makes room for a new dream
By Marty Maciaszek | Daily Herald Columnist
Published: 4/11/2013 10:36 PM

Ryan O’Connor was living the dream he envisioned as a teenager.

“If you had asked me when I was 18 years old, where I want to be in my 40s,” O’Connor said Wednesday afternoon, “it was to teach at a great school and to be a head coach of a quality basketball program.”

The 1989 Rolling Meadows graduate was able to do both fairly close to home at Buffalo Grove. But even dreams take different shapes and directions.

So, now O’Connor’s dream job will be solely as a teacher at BG. Among the reasons O’Connor decided to step down after 13 years of leading the boys program are his wife Kim and their three children — 11-year-old Kaitlynne, 8-year-old Karlie and 5-year-old Sean.

“It’s taken a lot of hard work to get here,” said O’Connor, who had a 207-150 record at BG. “I didn’t take the decision lightly and I really thought it through. But my kids are getting older and it’s a chance to be more involved in their lives and do some of those things.”

O’Connor saw three possible options as he thought about his decision.

“Either things get bad and you get fired or think you have to leave, and that’s not the case here,” O’Connor said. “The program is in really good shape and I have great administrative support.

“Or I could coach the next 15 to 20 years at BG and I thought long and hard about that. It was appealing in a lot of ways. Or I could do this, where I decided it’s time to choose another adventure and it’s time for a change.”

O’Connor started his high school coaching career in Dubuque, Iowa, while he was still a student at Loras College. He came to BG and worked for a year in the girls program with Tom Dineen and then spent six years in the boys program as a freshman and JV coach before taking over when Doug Millstone retired.

The Bison enjoyed some of the more memorable times in the program’s history under O’Connor. There was a run of four straight 20-win seasons from 2004-05 to 2007-08, with the last three culminating in regional titles and a 2007 trip to a sectional final, and almost every year they seemed to be in the hunt for the Mid-Suburban East title.

All of the success made O’Connor appreciative of the backing from his wife, a stable staff that included Dave Sczepanski and Keith Peterson, a mentor such as Millstone, administrators such as Carter Burns, Don Bawden and Mark Schaetzlein and numerous players that included John Clancy, Mike Will, Ryan O’Gara, Brian DeSimone and Kevin Mulligan.

“I had a lot of great support,” O’Connor said. “I’m really proud of the kids and what they developed into.”

Now it’s someone else’s turn to continue what O’Connor developed at BG. He wouldn’t rule out coaching again but said this isn’t a decision made in pursuit of another opportunity.

“I love it, basketball is a passion of mine,” O’Connor said. “If I get the itch again, who knows? But right now I’m pretty happy with the decision I’ve made.”

marty.maciaszek@gmail.com