3rd Year at NU
"After being here two years, I'm more excited than ever about the Northwestern
experience and what we can offer a young man in terms of education and athletics. Very few places in the country play athletics at the highest level and have education at the highest level. We're one of the very few. It is our hope we attract what we are: first-class people to a first-class program."
Now beginning his third season at the helm of the Northwestern
basketball program, Kevin O'Neill has brought his own brand of intensity,
excitement and basketball talent to Evanston, Ill. In just two seasons,
O'Neill has turned the Wildcats into postseason contenders. Northwestern
made postseason play for the third time in the school's history last season
when they were selected to play in the National Invitation Tournament.
O'Neill's work was nothing short of miraculous considering the 'Cats
started three freshmen and played in a conference that had seven teams
ranked in the top 25 for most of last season.
O'Neill's intensity translates to the court as pressure defense and
the Wildcats proved last season to be one of the best in the country on
that side of the floor. NU finished ranked third in the NCAA in field goal
defense (.373) and sixth in the NCAA in scoring defense (57.1 ppg).
O'Neill, 42, knows what it takes to turnaround a program. In 1994,
he inherited a Tennessee program which won only five games the previous
campaign, and took them to the NIT two seasons later. Tabbed as one of the
nation's top recruiters, O'Neill was able to land several blue chip players
during his three-year stint at Tennessee, including All-SEC rookie Brandon
Wharton. In just two years, he stocked the Vol program with enough talent
that they began to turn heads with wins over 1997 NCAA tournament teams
Vanderbilt (75-65, 66-53) and USC (71-59), while losing a tightly contested
battle to defending national champion Kentucky, 74-64.
At Marquette, the two-time Great Midwest Conference Coach of the
Year took over a program which, like Tennessee, hadn't enjoyed a winning
season in many years. In 1990-91, his first season, he guided the Golden
Eagles to a 15-14 record and an appearance in the NIT. Three seasons later
(1993-94), he directed Marquette to a 20-8 mark and a spot in the NCAA
tournament. The next season, he coached the Golden Eagles back to their
glory days by advancing to the Sweet 16 and finishing with a 24-9 record.
He left Milwaukee with an impressive mark of four winning campaigns in five
years and a Great Midwest Conference championship in 1994. In addition,
his last two teams compiled a remarkable 44-17 record while leading the
nation in field goal percentage defense.
O'Neill began his coaching career in 1979 at Hammond (N.Y.) High
School. Following a 13-8 campaign, he accepted a position to be the first
head basketball coach at North Country Community College in Saranac Lake,
N.Y. In only their second season of play (1981-82), he coached the squad
to the National Junior College Region III playoffs.
O'Neill then became the director of athletics and head basketball
coach at Marycrest College in Davenport, Iowa, for the 1982-83 season. His
team compiled an 18-11 record during that campaign. The following year,
O'Neill went back East and served as an assistant coach at the University
of Delaware during the 1983-84 and 1984-85 seasons. Following his stint
with the Fightin' Blue Hens, he took an assistant coaching position at
Tulsa for one season. That year, the Golden Hurricane posted a 23-9 mark
and earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
From 1986-89, O'Neill was an assistant on Arizona's coaching staff.
Each year during his stay in Tucson, the Wildcats advanced to the "Big
Dance" while compiling an 82-19 record over three years. In 1989, O'Neill
was named the nation's top recruiter by a poll conducted of 294 Division I
coaches by The Seattle Intelligencer.
O'Neill graduated from McGill (Montreal) University in 1979 with a
B.A. in education. He played three years for the Redmen, the highlight
being a 31-3 season during his sophomore year. O'Neill received his
master's degree in secondary education from Marycrest College in 1983.
The Chateaugay, N.Y., native has an 12-year old son, Sean.
O'Neill's Head Coaching Record
Year School Record Pct. Postseason
1980-81 North Country CC 8-10 .444 ---
1981-82 North Country CC 12-11 .522 Regional Playoffs
1982-83 Marycrest College 18-11 .621 ---
1989-90 Marquette 15-14 .517 NIT
1990-91 Marquette 11-18 .379 ---
1991-92 Marquette 16-13 .552 ---
1992-93 Marquette 20-8 .714 NCAA
1993-94 Marquette* 24-9 .727 NCAA
1994-95 Tennessee 11-16 .407 ---
1995-96 Tennessee 14-15 .482 NIT
1996-97 Tennessee 11-16 .407 ---
1997-98 Northwestern 10-17 .370 ---
1998-99 Northwestern 15-14 .517 NIT
Division 1 total (11 seasons) 165-151 .522
Overall total (13 seasons) 185-172 .518
* - Great Midwest Conference Champions
Born: January 24, 1957
Alma Mater: McGill University, 1979; Marycrest College, 1983
Degrees: Bachelor's Degree in education, 1979; Master's Degree in secondary education, 1983
Hammond (N.Y.) High School, Head Coach, 1979-83
North Country C.C., Head Coach, 1980-81
Marycrest College, Head Coach, 1982-83
University of Delaware, Assistant Coach, 1983-85
University of Tulsa, Assistant Coach, 1985-86
University of Arizona, Assistant Coach, 1986-89
Marquette University, Head Coach, 1989-94
University of Tennessee, Head Coach, 1994-97
Northwestern University, Head Coach, 1997-present
Children: Son, Sean, 12
Quoting Kevin O'Neill
What does Northwestern University offer student-athletes?
"NU offers student-athletes a chance to compete at the highest-level both on and off the court. You don't have that opportunity at a lot of places. You have to be committed to excellence at NU in order to be successful."
What does the city of Chicago offer the Northwestern student-athlete?
"Chicago is probably the best sports town in the country. There is media coverage that is unmatched anywhere except New York. With the likes of the Bulls, the Bears and now the Big Ten Basketball Tournament, Chicago is the best sports region in the country. Chicago is rapidly becoming the mecca of not just professional sports, but college sports."
What are this program's priorities?
"The only thing we think about in our program are the people who are in it. Without question, our number one priority is our players. They always come first. Secondly, we concentrate real hard on staying in touch with our recruits, the ones who have committed and/or signed to come to our University. Third, our last priority, is recruiting more people who want to be a part of a great experience both on and off the court. In my mind, and the mind of our entire staff, this is a people program, and the most important people in the program are the players."
What they're saying about O'Neill
"He's great. He was very down to earth, very direct, straight-forward (when he was an assistant at Arizona). He was also very tough, he didn't let guys get away with anything. If you gave a good effort and did your job, he was great. I think he's going to do a fantastic job. He'll get some players and win some games."
"Kevin O'Neill went to work on me. Some days I would say to myself, 'Is this man going to bother me again today about academics?' He kept pushing me - on and off the court. He never let up. That's one of the main reasons I am where I am today."
San Antonio Spurs
"Kevin O'Neill brings to the picture a guy that's truly got a great track record recruiting. He's a very intense competitor, a guy that competes big-time. A workaholic. He's got a great reputation recruiting."
"He's a terrific program builder and I think he probably sees a situation there (at Northwestern) that if it can be done in football, why not in basketball."
"He made it a point to tell me he wasn't going to go anywhere he wasn't able to run a first-class program and treat his players first class. At the same time, he expected a first-class effort from his players. I could tell by the attention he gave me as a recruit, he was going to give the same amount of attention to me as a player and make sure I got a degree first and foremost, and that I not only improved as a player, but as a person as well."
"If you're not impressed by an eyeball-to-eyeball meeting with Kevin O'Neill, then someone better feel your pulse to see whether you're alive."
CBS Sports Broadcaster
"Kevin is the most energetic coach I have ever known. He is almost nonstop in terms of recruiting, building a team and doing all he can to represent a program in the best way possible. If anyone can get the job done in a new situation, it's Kevin."
Head Coach, University of Arizona
"Kevin O'Neill is one of the best recruiters in the business. He is very good at taking players to a higher level. He is building a foundation for success at Northwestern."