Richard “Dick” McConnell passed away peacefully at home on April 23, 2019 surrounded by his family. McConnell was 89.
McConnell is survived by his wife Clarine of 63 years, son Rick McConnell (Pamela), daughter Kelly Byxbee (Charlie), grandsons Matt McConnell (Michael Ann), Mickey McConnell (Meagan), granddaughters Kacy Byxbee (Scott Caan), Karlyn Byxbee, Kennedy Byxbee, and great grandchildren Josie, Miles, Mason and Logan.
McConnell was born in Topeka, Kansas in 1930. He attended Topeka High and Washburn University where he was a three sport star athlete. He played minor league baseball in the Chicago Cubs farm system before joining the Air Force in 1953. McConnell was stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson where he became a pilot, ﬂew multi-engine bombers and was trained in special weapons.
In 1956, McConnell and his wife eloped to Las Vegas then returned to Kansas where McConnell would begin his coaching career and start a family. Two years later, he took a coaching job in Tombstone, Arizona. After one season he was hired by Rincon High School where he would
coach the junior varsity basketball and baseball teams for the next eight years
During this time, McConnell received his Master’s in Education at the University of Arizona. When Sahuaro High School opened in 1968, McConnell was hired and went on to coach there for 39 years. McConnell retired from coaching in 2007 at the age of 77 and at that time he was the all-time winningest coach in Arizona history.
While at Sahuaro, he won four state championships, was coach of the year seven times and was awarded the NFCA Boys Basketball Western Coach of the Year. McConnell was inducted into the Topeka High School Hall of Fame, Washburn University Hall of Fame, Sahuaro High School Hall of Fame, Pima County Sports Hall of Fame and The National High School Athletic Coaches Hall of Fame. In 1989, he was the assistant coach of the McDonald’s High School All-American game and was the ﬁrst recipient of “The Spirit of Cotton Award.” McConnell’s coaching career spanned over 49 years and the Sahuaro High School Gymnasium was dedicated to him in 2002
After retiring from teaching, McConnell and his wife sold real estate together for 20 years and he was awarded the “Lifetime Achievement Award.” He was an avid golfer and enjoyed spending time with his grand kids.
McConnell was a man of honor, a role model and a gentleman. He was a great coach but even better man. What mattered most to Coach wasn’t the victories but rather the value of character and the way he treated people. He positively impacted thousands of students and athletes on and oﬀ the court. Including his great grandchildren who continued to serenade him until the week before he passed. Coach lived the American dream. He was a winner at life and now he is on God’s team. Coach will be greatly missed, but “The Legend” will live on.
A Celebration of Life will be held at Sahuaro High School’s “Dick McConnell Gymnasium” on Saturday, May 25th at 2:00 p.m.
Submitted by the McConnell Family.