Sahuaro Lost Our Own Hall of Famer


Brandon Barr, Sports Editor

Sahuaro lost a great one on April 23. Dick McConnell, Sahuaro’s long time basketball coach, died in Phoenix at the age of 89. Dick McConnell left behind more than titles and a gym named after him. He left behind all the people’s lives he had touched. Dick McConnell was more than a coach, he was a mentor to all those he came in contact with.  When he coached baseball, he coached former World Series winner Pat Darcy. Pat says that one of the first things McConnell ever said to him was that he was going to be great. That pushed Pat to work harder than he ever had before.  McConnell pushed all of his players to do their very best and nothing less. He was a father figure to many of his former players, teaching them lessons throughout his coaching career and in fact inspired Sahuaro’s current athletic director Steve Botkin, “Coach McConnell always did things the right way. To this day, before my practices, I sweep the floor,” he stated in reference to a relaxing tradition McConnell practiced.

Dick McConnell coached Sahuaro from 1968-2007 and was Sahuaro’s first ever basketball coach when the school opened in 1968. Coach McConnell was an inspiration to all and led Sahuaro boys basketball to championships in 1970, 1982, 2000, and 2001. He finished his career with 744 wins. The loss of McConnell deeply impacted everyone who knew him and Brad Peabody, current Pima men’s basketball coach, used to coach under McConnell and even against him. He was deeply emotional and says that McConnell “was the most influential person in my life.” Sahuaro’s current varsity boy’s basketball coach,  Jim Henry leaves two courtside seats reserved for Coach McConnell and his wife.

Rocky Lane, Sahuaro Spanish teacher reminisced, “Mr. McConnell was my Driver’s Ed teacher at Sahuaro. Back in the day they would show films that led up to a horrific car accident (it was supposed to scare you to make sure you take driving seriously). So… as we were sitting on the edge of our seat Mr. McConnell would unexpectedly slam his cabinet door and everyone would jump out of their seat and scream. He thought that was really funny (obviously he had a great sense of humor).”

Gloria Soto-Wilson, who works in the guidance office stated, “I would like to share about Coach McConnell that, my husband who coached at THMS from 1989- 1996, always looked forward to the games against Coach McConnell. His exact words were , “I can’t wait to beat McConnell!” My husband loved to enter in a game against him, because the level of coaching was superb and Coach McConnell was the one Coach to beat… Coach McConnell would always be remembered as a coach of integrity, positivity and a great leader on and off the court. All the great wins and championships that his teams brought to Sahuaro, is only one of the many ways to measure a great man.”

Principal Bobby Estrella sent out an email to the staff upon hearing of his passing: It is with great sadness to share that our legendary basketball coach Dick McConnell passed away yesterday.  He left a lasting imprint in our school’s history and we will miss him dearly.  Our hearts and thoughts go out to his family and close friends, which includes a ton of people.

Coach McConnell’s passing will have a lasting effect on the Tucson community. He was one of the most influential people to ever live in Tucson, and all those around him are deeply saddened to hear of his passing. Dick McConnell leaves behind his wife, Clarine and his son Rick. Coach McConnell’s coaching methods and mentorship have continued to be lived by Sahuaro’s current coaches and from those who coached under him. Our deepest condolences go out to Coach McConnell’s friends and family.