May 30, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Memorial fund started for family of legendary OC basketball coach Tim O’Brien

Tim O’Brien talks to his team during a timeout in December 2019. (File photo: Fernando M. Donado, For OC Sports Zone)

Northwood High School athletic boosters have established a memorial fund to help the family of former boys basketball coach Tim O’Brien, who died on Thursday night after a battle with cancer.

O’Brien was 66.

Northwood Principal Leslie Roach sent an Email to Northwood parents and others in the community over the weekend informing them of the death of the long-time Orange County coach, who also coached at Estancia, Tustin, Santiago and Orange Coast College. He coached high school basketball in Orange County for 35 years.

“It is with an extremely heavy heart and deep sadness that I must share the loss of one of our founding Northwood Timberwolves,” Roach said in her Email, which was shared with OC Sports Zone. “Thursday, the NHS family lost a true original with the passing of Tim O’Brien. Tim had been an institution here at NHS full of history, tradition, and true care. We will miss his eye for details, deep love for our school and friendship. 

“Tim was known as a fierce competitor. He was on the team that opened NHS and had an amazing career both in and out of the classroom. He was a championship-level coach and always drew the best out of his students. Immediately before spring break in 2017, Tim decided to make a life change and retire from teaching.

“While Tim looked forward to this new chapter, life brought additional changes for him when he was diagnosed with cancer immediately after this decision. This was not the sort of change anyone hopes for, but after a year of fighting and recovering, Tim returned to coach the NHS basketball team for the next few seasons. His love for his students and their development, as well as his attention to detail in the game of basketball, has served as inspiration to many students, players, colleagues and the NHS community.”

Those who would like to donate to the memorial fund should send a check to the Northwood High School Office, 4515 Portola Parkway, Irvine 92620 made out to NHSAB – Tim O’Brien.

Those who would like to send cards to Coach O’Brien’s family may drop them off at the attendance office window, near the pool or leave cards at the black mailbox on the wall by the door at the school’s main office.

Since his death, a shrine was started outside the Northwood High gymnasium and one at the entrance to the school. No funeral arrangements have been announced. School officials and boosters are working with former players to plan a tribute following safety guidelines due to the coronavirus pandemic.

No replacement has been made for O’Brien. Zach Johnson assisted O’Brien last season and led the team when he was unable to coach. O’Brien had planned to coach Northwood again during the 2021 season.

-Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com