Known as “Columbia Jack,” John J. O’Brien was the true “jack of all trades.” A two-time All-American in basketball at Columbia, O’Brien followed in Lou Bender’s footsteps to make the decade of the 1930s a landmark era for Columbia Basketball.
O’Brien was the Eastern Intercollegiate Basketball League scoring champion in 1937 and was named All-American in 1937 and 1938. O’Brien turned pro in 1940 and played professional basketball for the New York Gothams, Brooklyn Visitations and Baltimore Bullets of the American Basketball League, the precursor to today’s National Basketball Association.
O’Brien transitioned easily into his role as player/coach for the Hartford Hurricanes in the late 1940s and then became a renowned and respected professional basketball official.
A renowned advocate for youth sports, O’Brien helped lead the charge to reinstitute football at his alma mater, Windsor (Conn.) High School. He was also recognized in the Windsor community for spearheading youth and adult recreational programs in baseball and flag football.
Honored by the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame and the Helms Foundation Hall of Fame as one of top 25 athletes of the first half of the 20th century, O’Brien was one of the best all-around athletes of his time.
O’Brien lived in Windsor until his death in June 1994.