Born and raised in Sunnyside, Jim O’Neill was valedictorian of the first graduating class of McClancy, where he was a member of the varsity baseball and the speech and debate teams. Despite an undistinguished record as a pitcher, Jim did get the first hit in “McClancy baseball history” in a game against Kew Forest. However, the real McClancy baseball player in the family was his brother Jerry ’64, who was All-City and played for the University of Michigan.
Jim’s first love was tennis, and after graduating from St. John’s University in 1964, where he played under the legendary coach and teaching pro, George Seewagen, Brother Robert Connolly hired Jim to teach Social Studies and start a tennis team. In the late sixties, he coached perennial B/Q CHSAA play-off teams. McClancy became a power in CHSAA tennis. The strong 1970 squad became the first varsity squad in the school’s history to reach a City Championship final. Among the outstanding McClancy student-athletes who went on to college tennis scholarships were: George Loesch, Mike Dushock, Maurice Quijano, and Valentin Stoiana.
Jim left McClancy in 1972 to pursue graduate degrees in political science and a career in teaching at Queens College.
In 1983, Jim was appointed Executive Director of the New York Junior Tennis League, where he has worked to pioneer and implement school-based tennis programs, which have now become the prototype of the USTA’s national effort to grow tennis in urban America. In March 1999, he received the “Tennis Education Merit Award” from the International Tennis Hall of Fame. In 1998, he was appointed Executive Director of the Sports and Arts in Schools Foundation.
He resides in Forest Hills with his wife Donna and daughters Kendra and Taryn who are serious tennis players.