Tom O'Connor, who oversaw George Mason's men's basketball program run to the 2006 Final Four and the school's move to the Atlantic 10 conference, announced his retirement on Tuesday.
O'Connor, 67, served as AD for 20 years and directed GMU's move from the Colonial Athletic Association to the A-10 in the summer of 2013. He will officially step aside as athletic director on June 30, but will remain at the university in a fundraising role until his full retirement in January 2015.
“A Patriot legend is retiring,” said Ángel Cabrera, president of George Mason University, in a statement released by the school. “Tom has devoted his career to building an athletic department that has made this university proud.”
The university will immediately begin recruiting a new athletic director, according to the statement.
"I'm very proud of what we have accomplished during my tenure at George Mason,” said O’Connor. “I believe with the recent move to the Atlantic 10 that Mason athletics will continue to thrive in the classroom and gain prominence on the national stage that the conference provides. The well-being of the student-athletes has always been my motivation, and watching them mature and graduate has provided me with great satisfaction during my 40-year career.”
Of GMU's 22 sports, the men's basketball team certainly casts the largest shadow. The program reached the NCAA Tournament eight times with three appearances in the past eight seasons, including the memorable 2006 run with coach Jim Larranaga that brought tremendous positive attention to the team and the school.
After Jim Larranaga bolted for the University if Miami in 2011, O'Connor brought in former Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt on a reported five-year contract. The Patriots record under Hewitt is 57-45 overall, but they went 11-20 this past season, the school's first in the A-10.
Before going the administrative route at Santa Clara, St. Bonaventure and eventually George Mason, O'Connor served as head men's basketball coach at Dartmouth College in the early 1970's.