When Rick McConnell starting coaching boys high school basketball some 35 years ago, he never envisioned reaching the accomplishments he has achieved today. The coach at Dobson won his 600th game this January, and following his father’s footsteps, also won the Spirit of Cotton Award in 2016.
“I was really happy to have it all happen at Dobson. That was one thing I wanted, I think that was the thing I was most proud of. Is that it was all Dobson kids and all Dobson players, for me it was really neat,” said Mr. McConnell. “When those things come up it brings out a whole lot of older players and you kind of get the memories going, so that was fun.”
Mr. McConnell recognizes his milestone couldn’t have been reached without his athletes.
“You’ve had a lot of good kids and the kids have played well. It makes you proud and it really makes you feel like you’re part of something with a whole bunch of players who have come through here,” said Mr. McConnell. “So many nice kids have played here and for us to all be a part of that, it’s pretty cool.”
Mr. McConnell’s milestone win was impressive to his peers.
“I probably had 30 or 35 coaches that I know. Just within that night and the next day, they sent texts to me and it was fun getting them from them, because those are the people you play against year in and year out,” said Mr. McConnell.
Johnathan Hunter, a junior guard at Dobson, enjoys playing for Mr. McConnell.
“He’s a really good coach. He’s always telling you what to do, he’s never just sitting there. He knows what he’s doing,” said Mr. Hunter.
Donna Koch, the athletic secretary at Dobson, called Mr. McConnell “our legend.”
“He’s been here practically since the school opened,” said Mrs. Koch. “He does it for the love of the game.”
Mr. McConnell’s highly-respected reputation follows him off the court.
“He’s a great mentor, and he’s just a really nice guy, down-to-earth and he encourages the kids,” said Mrs. Koch.
The Phoenix Suns also awarded Mr. McConnell with the Spirit of Cotton Award last year, 10 years after his father won it.
“Cotton Fitzsimmons’ wife and others have put together an award that they give to a coach every year. Last year we got to go out to the Suns game and they presented us with a $10,000 check to the school,” said Mr. McConnell. “I sit there in the stands watching my dad win it the first time, I never thought I’d be on the other end of that recipient. So last year when I got it, it was really neat.”
Mr. McConnell is a staple at Dobson, he is happy to be a part of the Mustang family.
“All the people at Dobson have been awesome, the teachers, the principals, all the athletic directors. Everybody has been really cool, it’s a neat family,” said Mr. McConnell.
Andrew Millan is a journalism student at the Arizona State University Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and wrote the article as a class assignment.