ShareThis Page
Pitt assistant Tim O’Toole can put losing streak in a proper perspective | TribLIVE.com
Pitt

Pitt assistant Tim O’Toole can put losing streak in a proper perspective

Jerry DiPaola
| Friday, February 22, 2019 7:59 p.m
790346_web1_gtr-otoole-022319
AP
Pitt assistant coach Tim O’Toole (right) once considered taking a finance job at the World Trade Center.

Trying desperately to push forward in the midst of a difficult season, Tim O’Toole isn’t afraid to reveal his feelings about Pitt’s 10-game losing streak.

“Part of this profession,” Pitt’s associate head coach said, “is you absolutely abhor, detest, hate, with every cell in your body, and I mean every one, losing. Hate it.

“You hate going to get coffee in the morning, hate eating breakfast. Nothing is good.”

Yet, he can put this season — his first at Pitt — in its proper place because he knows something much worse. If not for some advice from his father, Tim O’Toole might have been on the 105th floor of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

His story began 12 years earlier when he was a graduate assistant at Fordham, making $200 a month, plus room and board, while working toward an MBA in finance.

One day, he was invited to the Hamptons, where the president of Cantor Fitzgerald, a worldwide financial services firm, offered him a job as an institutional broker.

When O’Toole told him what he was making at Fordham, the man said, “Listen, after two years (at Cantor Fitzgerald), you’ll be making $300,000.”

“I couldn’t even fathom what that meant,” O’Toole said after practice Friday at Petersen Events Center.

But O’Toole remembered what his father, Tom, an All-American at Boston College, coach and stockbroker, once told him:

“If you can make your vocation, your vacation, where you enjoy every day what you’re doing, you’re going to be a heckuva lot further ahead than most people. And, hopefully, the money one day will be there.”

In his heart, O’Toole wanted to coach. So, boosted by his father’s advice, he called the Cantor president and said “I’m not interested.”

At this point in the story, O’Toole paused and sadly said, “All those people died in 9/11.”

At the time, Cantor Fitzgerald occupied offices between the 101st and 105th floors of the World Trade Center. Reports have indicated that 658 employees died, 68 percent of the work force.

“First thing I thought about was I had a number of friends who were there in Cantor,” O’Toole said. “I went to a number of funerals.

“One of the guys who played at Fairfield (where O’Toole played and was head coach from 1998-2006), who I hosted on his (recruiting) visit, was at Cantor. Another friend, as fate would have it, he left Cantor, his first day back was that (day). That’s the first thing I thought about.”

Then this thought struck him: “You have these moments in life where you know you’re lucky. You have guardian angels.”

After turning down the Cantor job, O’Toole had several jobs in college basketball, moving from Fordham to Iona to Syracuse to Duke (when Pitt coach Jeff Capel was a player there) before landing at Fairfield.

Any regrets?

“Probably,” he said. “There were a lot of moments where you question, ‘Why am I doing this?’

“Part of being a competitor is once you start, you don’t quit. There were plenty of times, (you say), ‘You know what? Maybe I should be doing something else.’ “

But he was and is a coach.

“There is always this passion, and I can usually help (players) get better,” he said. “That’s what I thought my strength was. You always say, ‘I wish I made more (money), but the reality was if I was there, I was dead. I would have died in 2001.

“I’ll never forget that. Here’s your father’s advice, the guy I looked up to the most.”

Later, O’Toole heard the stories.

“The planes came in at (the 80th floor),” he said. “The heat is unbearable. Either you’re jumping or you’re waiting. What are you waiting for? One of the guys jumped.”

Five months later, his son Collin was born. O’Toole and his wife, Joanie, intentionally spelled the name with two ls.

“I never want him to forget there were two Trade Towers that used to be here and are not here anymore,” he said, admitting he thinks about that day “a lot.”

Collin, soon to turn 17, is a junior at Central Catholic.

“Life is short,” the elder O’Toole said. “You have to appreciate what you’re doing. And you better give it your all because it can change like that.

“You feel down (over basketball)? No. Those kids are raised without a dad.”

Get the latest news about Pitt basketball and all things Panthers athletics.

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | Pitt
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.