Coach accused of attack on player is suspended

Matt Kravchuk, a Holy Family University sophomore, says that he doesn't know what set off basketball coach John O'Connor last month to the point where the coach pushed him to the ground, leaving him with a bloodied face and an injured wrist.

"We were in basketball practice and we were doing a drill, and the next thing I knew my coach approached me," he said. "He struck my face, then I landed on the ground. I went to the back of the line. He came swearing to me, made a comment on the blood on my face."

Asked what may have triggered the attack, Kravchuk, 19, said: "Honestly, I don't know. To the best of my knowledge, I wasn't doing the drill wrong or nothing."

Kravchuk's attorney, Jack S. Cohen, said yesterday that he obtained video of the Jan. 25 basketball practice, showing the assault, from the Northeast Philadelphia university, which routinely videotapes its basketball practices.

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Kravchuk said that he reported the attack to the athletics director, Sandra Michael, the day it happened. Not feeling satisfied with the university's response, Kravchuk filed a police complaint Feb. 11. Last Thursday, Holy Family suspended O'Connor pending an investigation.

Reached by e-mail yesterday, O'Connor, the first-year head men's basketball coach, referred the Daily News to his attorney, John Gallagher.

Gallagher, in a brief e-mail, said: "John O'Connor has a 25-year coaching body of work that is substantial and his reputation will serve him well during this discussion."

Kravchuk, 6-feet-5 and 210 pounds, is a small forward for the Tigers. "I didn't expect to get hit or anything like that," he said, adding of the coach: "I know he's really emotional about basketball."

Kravchuk said that he suffered two cuts inside his mouth and a bloody nose and a damaged left wrist from the fall. As a result, he hasn't been able to play basketball, because "he can't grasp with his left wrist," Cohen said.

Cohen and Kravchuk said that the university had told Kravchuk that the coach had been given an unspecified disciplinary action prior to being suspended.

Tom Durso, university spokesman, said that he could not comment yesterday on whether O'Connor faced other disciplinary action prior to his suspension, saying that it was a "personnel matter."