NMMI Sports Press
There’s a big hole to fill on the Bronco men’s tennis team.
Coach William O’Connell, who’s been both a cadet, player and coach at the Institute, is headed to England for an opportunity he said he couldn’t turn down.
The young coach was accepted at the University of Nottingham, where he’ll earn his master’s in communication and entrepreneurship while playing tennis for the school.
“That’s something I want to continue and then to tie that in with my master’s degree is two things off my bucket list,” he said.
He said playing for NMMI and Presbyterian College in South Carolina, where he got his bachelor’s and served as an assistant coach, isn’t a problem at his new school.
“Prior NCAA playing time dies not affect you in any way,” he said. “They actually welcome it to help their sports teams.”
Before reporting to Nottingham in September, O’Connell with once again play on the Pacific Oceania Davis Cup team, something he hopes his continued college competition will let him do in the future as well.
But while he’s excited about that future, he’s also sad about leaving the Broncos, and especially Adam Noureldin, a sophomore who took second in the nation in his flight just a week ago.
“Adam is a very special player and I’d love to have him next year and have a part in sending him on to a four-year program,” the coach said. “Our recruiting class is very strong for next year, so it’s sad not to be a part of that, but I also feel I’ve been given an opportunity I can’t pass up.”
Adam is equally disappointed.
“I was very sad to hear about that, because he understands what us young people go through,” he said. “He knows what’s going on with the team and even us, if we’ve got a problem or question, he’ll understand and we can talk to him, even about our problems in the corps. We’re always able to talk to him because we know he’s going to be there for us.”
Athletic director Jose Barron agreed he’ll be missed.
“It’s kind of a bitter-sweet moment for me,” he said. “I am extremely proud of William and his accomplishments thus far. He continues to play competitive tennis and will continue to do so in England. How can we not be proud of that from an alumnus?”
O’Connell has been busy recruiting, and has already signed “four super-talented Africans” to surround Noureldin, with another player close to signing and several walk-ons expected to boost Bronco tennis. He hopes he’s made a difference in the program.
“I definitely wanted to leave it better than I found it, and that was a tough thing to do, because the coach before me left a good starting point, but I hope I’ve added to the program in some way,” he said.
Barron said he has.
“The fact that he has taken this program to the next level, I can’t help but think that coach (Gene) Hardman is smiling down upon this moment because he has brought men’s tennis back to the forefront, back to where Gene had it at one point in his career, and has set the bar high for the next coach that is going to come in.”
And just who that next coach will be is still a question mark, but O’Connell said Barron has asked for his advice.
“Jose has asked for input on my replacement, and I also want to make sure my dad (women’s coach Dan O’Connell) is happy with who he’ll be working with next year,” he said. ”So I’ll be involved in the process. I hope the next person will be high caliber.”
Barron knows he’ll be hard to replace.
“I can’t say enough good things about William. I only hope that someday, when his career comes full circle, that maybe he’ll find his way back home to the Institute.”
With the way the outgoing coach feels about the Institute, that could happen some day.
“I loved running the program,” O’Connell said. “The athletic department, the staff and faculty all played a part in having two successful years. I felt like I was part of the family at NMMI and that’s special and thanks to everybody who played a part in me having two special years in my life.”