The Dagger - NCAAB

They were involved in an altercation in practice and then sparred through the media, so it should come as no surprise that a suspended Division II coach and his former player continued to butt heads when they met face-to-face.

In an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America" on Thursday, Holy Family University coach John O'Connor apologized to sophomore Matt Kravchuk for knocking him to the ground with a forearm to the chest during a rebounding drill last month.

"Matt, this was an accident," O'Connor said. "I was just trying to make us a better team and make us more competitive and in doing so an accident happened. It was unintentional by me and I'm really sorry that it happened."

The apology didn't inspire forgiveness from Kravchuk, who has left the team and says he sustained a wrist injury as a result of the altercation. That created a very uncomfortable moment for viewers when host George Stephanopoulos asked the player to respond to his former coach.

"To be honest, it's kind of hard to accept your apology just because you claim it's justified and you claim you weren't crossing the line," Kravchuk said. "I came to Holy Family to play basketball and now I'm injured and I can't play. And I can't play for you anymore because as your player I'm supposed to be able to respect you but I don't feel I can do that anymore."

The altercation between O'Connor and Kravchuk occurred during a rugged practice in which the coach said he was trying to instill toughness in his team after a lackluster performance in its previous game.

Video cameras captured O'Connor knocking Kravchuk to the ground and then kicking him to encourage him to get up and finish the drill. When a dazed and bleeding Kravchuk walks toward the end of the line, O'Connor berates him again, yelling "Got a little blood on ya? Good."

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O'Connor coached five games after the incident without any penalty from the school, prompting Kravchuk to file a police report and leak word of the altercation to the media so that the school would finally take action. Less than a week after Holy Family University suspended O'Connor, the coach opted to resign on Thursday afternoon.

It might have been easier for Kravchuk to accept O'Connor's apology if the coach didn't argue his actions were justified.

Asked by Stephanopoulos earlier in the interview whether he realized his actions were out of line, O'Connor responded "not really," adding that he was only trying to make his players better. Furthermore he repeatedly referred to the incident as "an accident" and "unintentional."

Ultimately, the better PR approach might have been for O'Connor to admit he was wrong, to describe the behavior as out of character and to insist that it will not happen again. 

Although the line between a tough coach and an abusive one has receded so far the past few decades that many believe today's athletes are coddled, it's pretty clear O'Connor went too far here. 

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