John Connor enters his 10th year as the head coach of the men’s and women’s swimming and diving program since his hire in May 2005. His past experiences as a former University of Tennessee swimmer and Division I coach provide much table talk but serve as the driving force to the coaching the next best student-athletes in the Appalachian Swimming Conference (ASC).
During the 2013-14 season, the Tornado broke numerous school records, with six new women's records being set and seven new men's records being posted. On the women's side, Rachel Fuller broke the 200 yard butterfly record, and Melissa Smith registered a new record in the 1 meter dive. Four different relay teams set school records on the women's side, including the 200, 400 and 800 yard freestyle relays and the 400 medley relay. On men's side, Nicholas Puimelli set school records in the 50, 100, 200 yard breststrokes and the 200 yard individual medley while the Tornado set relay records in the 800 yard freestyle, 200 and 400 yard medley relays.
The 2012-13 season saw many King swimming and diving records fall as the women set 14 new school records, and the men posted two school records. On the men's side, the 800 freestyle relay posted a school record as did Christian Knobloch in the 200 free style. The women set school records in all the relays while Kelsey Wiese set four school records. Wiese also became the first individual to capure a conference title, winning the 100 yard backstroke.
In just his third year with the program, Connor began a three-year run taking his teams to the NAIA National Championships prior to King making the transition to NCAA Division II.
In 2007, Connor led the men’s swimming and diving team directly to an ASC Championship prior to guiding them into the NAIA Championships, where they placed 12th in the country. That same year the women’s team placed 16th overall at the NAIA National Championships.
The following year the Tornado again raced to high placements in the ASC Championship as the men placed third and combined for a third place overall finish. At the NAIA Championships that year the women finished 13th overall while the men were 14th. At the 2008 Championships, diver Bryan Colley finished third overall in the men’s 1-meter diving competition.
Connor took the Tornado to its final appearance at the NAIA Swimming Championships in 2009 where the women’s team placed 18th overall and the men finished 16th.
Prior to coming to King University, he was a well-tenured coach at local Tennessee High School in Bristol (Tenn.). He coached the Vikings’ boys and girls swim teams from 1973 to 2005 where success followed him and his teams for many years.
In 1977, Connor helped Tennessee High to the pinnacle of competition, leading the Viking girls’ team to a State Championship. Over his 30-plus year career at Tennessee High, he had eight girls’ teams win Big Ten Conference championships and six boys’ teams to conference championships.
Connor was named the Big Ten Conference Coach of the Year six times over his tenure. While at Tennessee High, he coached All-American and State Champion Clif Buckles who won the 100-yard fly races at state competition in 1991 and 1992. He also served as the Age Group Coach for the Bristol Area Swim Association from 1973 to 1986.
Connor graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1973 upon receiving his Bachelor’s degree in Education. While at UT, he swam for the Vols and was an SEC finalist all four years he competed. In 1970, Connor was a national qualifier and swam in the same heat as Olympian Mark Spitz in the NCAA Division I national meet.
John is married to his wife, Dr. Mary Connor and has two daughters. He currently resides in Bristol (Tenn.).