Vincent 'Craig' O'Connell, 50, coach, teacher

August 31, 1998|By Timothy B. Wheeler and Mary Maushard | Timothy B. Wheeler and Mary Maushard,SUN STAFF

Vincent "Craig" O'Connell inspired countless young people in his 23 years of coaching and teaching in Baltimore and Howard counties.

Mr. O'Connell, 50, of Catonsville, died Friday in what police say was an apparent suicide.

Colleagues, friends and students he had coached gathered yesterday at Howard High School, where Mr. O'Connell had worked since 1985, to grieve his death and to prepare to counsel students when they come to school today.

"This is so painful, so difficult to comprehend; Craig meant so much to our school and our community," said Stan Rappaport, president of Howard High's parent-teacher-student association and a sportswriter for The Sun. "He was a wonderful person, who touched so many lives."

Mr. O'Connell coached three sports every year at Howard, most recently basketball, volleyball and tennis. He coached the school's girls' basketball team to a state championship in 1994 and to three regional titles. He took over as boys' basketball coach last year, with hopes of building a county powerhouse.

Teams well prepared

"When you coach that many sports for that many years, you touch a lot of lives including my own son's," said Mary J. Day, Howard High's principal.

"I couldn't ask for a better coach than he was," said Lamont Thompson, a senior from Elkridge who played for O'Connell last year on the boys basketball team.

Kelly Storr, girls' basketball coach at Wilde Lake High School, said of him: "He was always, always positive, always upbeat. If you are having a bad day, you would go and talk to Craig. He would have good things to say."

Mr. O'Connell taught history and American government, and he participated in school musicals. His former colleagues recalled yesterday that he sparked students' interest in subjects that were not always their favorites.

'A good teacher'

"In order to be a good coach, you've got to be a good teacher," said Eugene Streagle, former principal at Howard High, now a school administrator. "The kids related to him so well."

Indeed, he was selected by the 1991 senior class to give the commencement address that year.

"Craig never realized what an influence he was on the people around him," said his wife, Kathy.

He was a star basketball player and 1973 graduate of University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He also was a Vietnam veteran, serving in a medical field hospital in 1969-1970.

He received a master's degree in 1985 from what was then Towson State University.

Mr. O'Connell taught fifth- and seventh-grade English and social studies at St. Agnes Elementary School in Catonsville from 1975 until going to Howard in 1985. He also was a PTA president at St. Agnes.

Coached his daughter

Mr. O'Connell also coached his children in church and recreational sports leagues. His 12-year-old daughter Kelly's Amateur Athletic Union team won a state championship this year.

"He was the epitome of the family man that we all want to be -- totally dedicated to his kids and wife," said Kirk Thompson, a close friend, former teacher and coach at Howard, who is now a county schools administrator.

A funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Agnes Roman Catholic Church.

In addition to his wife and daughter Kelly, he is survived by four other children: Michael, 18; Courtney, 17; Kerry, 13, and Patrick, 10.

Pub Date: 8/31/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.