Brian O’Connor on culture and competing

summer16The head coach at the University of Virginia since 2004, Brian O’Connor is a five-time ACC Coach of the Year and three-time national coach of the year. In addition to bringing the 2015 NCAA title to Charlottesville, O’Connor boasts the third-highest winning percentage of all current head coaches in Division I baseball and the 14th-best mark all-time. O’Connor is the second fastest ACC coach to reach 500 career wins and has ushered a boatload of talent into professional baseball, including the likes of Ryan Zimmerman, Mark Reynolds, Sean Doolittle, and several others.

He came to Virginia after nine years at Notre Dame (1995-2003) under current LSU coach Paul Mainieri, where he was named the 2001 National Assistant Coach of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association and Baseball America and was AFLAC National Assistant Coach of the Year in 2003.

Inside Pitch recently visited with the Cavaliers’ head coach to talk about how he manages his clubs, his staff, and the winning culture he has developed at UVA.

Message to team during postseason

“My message changes from year to year. I don’t treat any of the teams the same because they’re different in terms of experience; every ball club is different. I treated and talked to our 2015 team, for example, differently than we ever have. I’m not saying we won the national title because of that, but I think it’s our responsibility as coaches and leaders of the program to figure out what makes each team tick and get them to play their best baseball at the right time.”

“There have been some years were I’ve had to be really hard on the guys and challenge them. That’s just a gut feel I have as a coach on how that particular club needs to be managed.”

“I’ve learned a lot form my mistakes over the years. Our first few years here we had some pretty good ball clubs. Our 2007 team in particular was a really special team, and Oregon State ended up coming in to our regional and beating us twice to advance on and win the national championship. I didn’t really do a good job of managing them, their emotions, and the team as a whole. I’ve learned from those mistakes and made some adjustments over the years and I think it’s served our program well.”

Adjustments throughout the season

“We don’t change our expectations throughout the season. Instead, we stress and dwell on our everyday expectations. Certainly not wins and losses, but executing the game, taking care of the game, the expectations we have for each other on how the game should be played. We don’t talk a lot about goals- certainly there’s large things like winning an ACC championship and getting to Omaha- we talk about how to do those things in small detail, but not about winning games. We don’t talk about winning every series or a certain amount of games, it’s more of a day to day thing.”

UVA photo

UVA photo


“I feel like I’m always learning. If we feel like if learning stops and we have it figured out, we need to go do something else! I’m learning from the players every day, and from other coaches- coaches across the country- I’m constantly picking their brains on how they handle certain situations. One example of that is last year when we were scuffling, one of the best conversations I had was with John Savage at UCLA… Read the rest