O'Donnell Excited About Next Chapter at UCF

May 20, 2011

="" alt="Knight Head" border="0" class="imported"> Read John Denton's Knights Insider | ="" alt="Twitter Logo" border="0" class="imported">Follow us on Twitter | ="" alt="Facebook Logo" border="0" class="imported">Get social with the Knights on Facebook

By Doug Richards

Bright House Sports Network feature on Mike O'Donnell | Reserve your 2011-12 season tickets today

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - When Mike O'Donnell was a standout guard for the Knights from 2005-08, it seemed like he was always being asked if he planned to go into coaching when his playing career was over. The question, which came from UCF supporters, rival coaches, officials and even opposing fans, was a natural.

As UCF's point guard for three seasons, O'Donnell was a coach on the floor. He never was reluctant to lead his teammates, even if that meant offering constructive criticism. O'Donnell's knowledge of the game was always on display, and he often used his basketball-savvy to draw fouls from opponents on both ends of the floor, find an open teammate for an easy basket, and of course, create space from his defender to drain 3-pointer after 3-pointer.

Now, just over three years after his final game as a Knight, O'Donnell is starting his coaching career. On Monday, UCF head coach Donnie Jones named O'Donnell the program's director of basketball operations. In that role, he will manage team travel, supervise the Knights' academic progress and run Jones' youth camps.

O'Donnell, who spent the last three years as a member of the Golden Knights Club staff, is looking forward to working with Jones, associate head coach Shawn Finney, assistant coaches Darren Tillis and Tim Thomas and director of program development Brendan Suhr.

"I am very excited to work with and learn from them," he said. "They have phenomenal basketball minds. From the learning aspect, it is going to be great."

O'Donnell has known Jones for several years, dating back to when Jones was an assistant coach at Florida and O'Donnell was a star at Largo High School in Pinellas County. Jones recruited O'Donnell, and although O'Donnell elected to attend NC State before transferring to UCF after his freshman year, the two always stayed in touch.

So when Jones had an opening on his staff earlier this month, he did not have to look very far to find a worthy candidate. Jones predicts that O'Donnell will excel in relating with, and assisting, UCF's current players. After all, O'Donnell knows what it takes to succeed on and off the floor at UCF.

"He is a guy who has been in their shoes as a player. He understands what it is about. He has great pride in this university and this program," Jones said.

O'Donnell looks back at his time with the Golden Knights Club with great fondness. He enjoyed working with UCF's supporters on a myriad of projects, and hopes to continue many of those relationships in his new role.

"Working for the Golden Knights Club was incredible. It could not have been a better opportunity for me personally. I had two of the best bosses that anyone could ever ask for in Jeff Ulmer and Joe Bertoletti. I learned a ton from them. It was a really great experience. I loved every minute of it."

In addition to working in the athletics development field, O'Donnell also served as a color analyst on UCF radio and television broadcasts for the last three years.

O'Donnell expects to have a learning curve as he discovers what it takes to run the logistical aspect of a college basketball program. Despite the challenges that will come from his new role, he is looking forward to helping UCF's coaches and players achieve on a daily basis.

"I am here for the guys. I am here for the coaches. It is not about me, it is about UCF basketball," he said. "I am going to do my best every day to come into the office and work just as hard as I did when I was a player."