| Wins against Kentucky - 1 | Losses against Kentucky - 0 |
Alma Mater: Drake 
Date Born: December 21, 1913
Date Died: April 22, 1958
Overall Record: 114-59 [7 Seasons]
|3/17/1956||Kentucky vs. Iowa||L||77 - 89||NCAA Midwest Regional Finals (at Iowa City, IA)|
Biography - DesMoinesRegister.com (April 2, 1967)
When the University of Iowa's basketball team reported for the opening of practice in the fall of 1953, each player was given a mimeographed sheet of general instructions.
Included about the training regimen to be followed was Coach Frank (Bucky) O'Connor's philosophy on life as he felt it pertained to athletics.
In the next three years O'Connor would lead this unusual group of talented youngsters to the most successful basketball era in Hawkeye history.
For his achievements in a relatively short but fruitful coaching career, Bucky O'Connor today joins the list of 55 who have preceded him into The Des Moines Register's Iowa Sports Hall of Fame.
At the age of 44, O'Connor met a tragic death in a highway accident near Waterloo on Apr. 22, 1958. A whole state was shocked and his premature passing was mourned by countless friends from a wide acquaintanceship in all walks of life.
There is no better testimonial to the man that he was and the ideals he left behind than the message he imparted to the squad assembled in 1953. It included a strong sophomore lineup that would go on to earn the nickname "Fabulous Five."
"The boy who has faith in God can look to the future without worry or strain," O'Connor told his players."I firmly believe that the boys on our team who attend church are more likely to be successful because they can face their problems with hope and encouragement."
Those words, brief and simply stated, were enough to get across his thoughts on religion.
Then Bucky put particular stress on mental attitude and conditioning.
"The mental attitude of an athlete is the result of his adjustment to social environment
"It is determined by his ability to live with his teammates, fans, students and coach without conflict and by finding most of the time that his life is satisfying and pleasant."
And on conditioning, he declared:
"Conditioning is vitally important in a fast-moving game such as basketball. No one will be a star unless he keeps in top shape. Good observance of training rules must come from within the player.
That was his coaching credo. The record book tells the rest.
His seven years as Iowa's head basketball coach produced 108 victories and 54 losses. His Big Ten mark was 66-36.
His 1956 team was the best in Iowa history, winning 13 conference games and 20 for the full season -- both all-time Hawkeye highs. Two straight Big Ten championships were capped that year by a runner-up finish in the National Collegiate tournament.
Most Iowa sports followers can probably reel off the names of O'Connor's "Fabulous Five" without hesitation.
Sharm Scheuerman, later to succeed Bucky as the head coach, and Bill Seaberg were the guards. Carl Cain and Bill Schoof filled the forward positions. Those four were all from Illinois.
The center and only Iowa native was 6-foot 6-inch Bill Logan of Keokuk, who was the scoring leader in each of their three seasons together.
This five had already formed a starting unit before their 1953-54 sophomore season was over. Late in the winter they went almost all the way to pull off one of the year's biggest upsets, an 82-64 victory at Indiana that signaled things to come.
Indiana won the Big Ten title with a 12-2 mark, but Iowa's yearlings were a close second at 11-3.
As juniors, their 11-3 repeat record was good enough to take the championship. They rolled on into the N.C.A.A. finals, too, and wound up as the nation's No. 4 team.
Forgotten over the years, perhaps, because of the fantastic finish that followed, was the early-season disappointment O'Connor experienced with his then-veteran squad in the 1955-56 campaign.
Senioritis, an age-old affliction, was being bandied about as the possible reason for three straight December non-conference defeats on the west coast. Then the Hawks came home and lost again!
Michigan State spilled them in the Big Ten opener at Iowa City, 65-64.
From there, however, Bucky regrouped his wounded forces and they bounced back to unfurl a school-record 17-game winning streak.
They claimed the Big Ten title again with their sensational 13-1 showing, then marched relentlessly on to the N.C.A.A. championship game before being stopped by San Francisco and the incomparable Bill Russell.
Because of the Illinois domination (top subs Bob George and Babe Hawthorne also were from that state), the Hawkeyes had some memorable duels in those years with Illinois.
Their late-season showdown at Iowa City for the 1956 title was undoubtedly the highlight of the Fabulous Five's years together. They treated a regional television audience to almost flawless basketball, turning the game into a rout in the second half and winning, 96-72.
better on road
With the end of that season, O'Connor's collection of court magicians had compiled a three-year record of 56-18. And they also owned this rare distinction: In Big Ten play, they performed better on the road (18-3) than at home (17-4).
"I could coach 50 years more and never have a team -- I mean a real, everybody-for-everybody unit -- like this," noted O'Connor.
Later on, he remarked: "My 1956 team was one of perfection. It's impossible to find five boys who play so smoothly together again. It was a coach's dream team."
Although basketball was Bucky O'Connor's ticket to coaching fame, golf figured prominently in allowing this dream to come true.
Born in Monroe, La., on Dec. 21, 1913, he grew up on a steady diet of golf. His parents were in charge of the Newton Country Club and Bucky practically lived on the course for 12 years, learning the game both as a caddy and a player.
It was this background that helped him land a spot on Iowa's athletic staff, as the golf coach in 1948, and be ready to move out of obscurity when he succeeded Basketball Coach Rollie Williams in 1951.
His first team was led by another Iowa Hall of Famer, Chuck Darling, and finished runner-up in the 1952 Big Ten race.
In his own playing days, the genial and enthusiastic O'Connor had to overcome two handicaps -- in fact, about the two most damaging hindrances there could be to basketball success. He was small and had poor eyesight.
But he had a ton of fight in his 125-pound physique, made the team at Newton High School and was known as the "Thin Man" when he jumped right into the starting lineup as a Drake University sophomore in 1935-36.
Bucky took a lot of joshing from his Drake teammates, who claimed his eyesight was so bad he couldn't see the scoreboard, but he was the only one they chose as their captain in his senior year -- when he also served as president of the campus "D" Club.
Bud Suter, now in charge of athletic relations at Iowa, was on the same teams all three of those years. And they were good ones. The Bulldogs shared the Missouri Valley championship in 1936, took third in 1937 and second in 1938.
O'Connor coached at Harrisburg, Ill., and Boone High Schools before entering the Army Air Corps during World War II. He was discharged with the rank of captain in 1946.
Bucky then returned to Boone to serve as athletic director and basketball and golf coach, as well as filling the athletic directorship at Boone Junior College, before joining the Iowa staff two years later.
His widow, the former Jane Westberg of Boone, lives in Iowa City and so does daughter Kathy, now 22. In August of 1965 Kathy was married to an ex-Iowa athlete, Fred Riddle, who is attending dental school.
To perpetuate his memory, the Bucky O'Connor Scholarship Fund was started almost immediately after his death, and a grant is made each year to the basketball player or golfer who displays his high ideals.
Whether you now this effervescent personality as a tough competitor or a winning coach, or if you were just numbered among his legion of friends Bucky O'Connor is remembered best by all simply as a fine gentleman -- one of the truly good guys.
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