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O’Connor’s Intensity, Humor Bring Balance to City

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 11/11/17, 11:08AM EST


Louisville Head Coach has been key to club’s consistency over three seasons

Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville City FC

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The focused demeanor Louisville City FC Head Coach James O’Connor has brought to the club, mirroring the manner which he prepared and played over a 19-year career on the field, is the defining trait most know him for.

But that doesn’t mean the 38-year-old Irishman can’t have a little bit of fun every once in a while.

“That’s a tough one,” said Louisville captain Paolo DelPiccolo, asked when he saw O’Connor crack his widest smile. “I think one time we were doing a little finishing drill in training, and he put the assistant coach in goal and we got to play some 'butts up'. He smashed one and got the assistant coach pretty good. I’ve never seen him smile quite that big.”

O’Connor’s sense of humor was on display on Friday’s media conference. Asked about the potentially chilly conditions for Monday night’s USL Cup against the Swope Park Rangers, he replied it would be easy for him, “this is a lovely summer’s day in Ireland”, a line that drew chuckles from all of those on the dais.

That type of one-liner is common for those that are around him regularly, offering a lightness to the intensity that has made him one of the top coaches in the USL.

“He has a couple of laughs, man, his banter’s pretty good, to be honest,” said midfielder George Davis IV. “It’s just that he’s about his business. He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever been around, so when you see him in these environments you don’t get to laugh often, but it’s there. It comes out quite a bit.”

Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville City FC

O’Connor’s passion has been the central point in creating Louisville’s record over the club’s first three years. A top-two side in the Eastern Conference that reached the Eastern Conference Final each season before finally breaking through to its first USL Cup this year, the attention to detail that made O’Connor a master at his craft as a player has quickly translated to his role on the sidelines.

“It’s no surprise for me,” said Davis, who played both alongside and against O’Connor when the Irishman was with Orlando City SC at the end of his playing career. “His intensity translates greatly as a manager. The same way he played, he managed. He was a general on the field and I think it’s the same way that he coaches. Maximum intensity, maximum effort all the time. That’s infectious in the locker room.”

DelPiccolo, now in his second season with City after having previously made stops in both MLS and the USL, adds that O’Connor’s ability to draw the best out of players, and his high-level understanding of the game, has been a key factor in the club’s consistency on the field.

“I think as players we grow and we get better, but this doesn’t happen [without O’Connor],” said DelPiccolo. “This is my sixth professional club, so I’ve played for a bunch of coaches and a bunch of assistants, and I think that what James brings is really what has allowed us to be successful this year, it’s his mentality and his coaching style.”

Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville City FC

  • “We hold ourselves to an extremely high standard every day,” added Louisville rookie Richard Ballard. “The key is the intensity and the attitude and to come to training and work your hardest. When we have an amazing and competitive atmosphere it prepares you for any type of situation in game day with the training intensity and James is definitely the lead in all of that.”

    And should his side lift the USL Cup on Monday night, the smile on O’Connor’s face will be that of a man who’s completed a job well done.

    “Every once in a while you can get him to banter around a little bit, but he’s just a focused guy and he brings that to the team,” said DelPiccolo. “He brings a level of seriousness and a level of focus and a level of hard work to the team that I think is what makes him such a good coach.”

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