Head Men's Basketball Coach
John O'Neill has coached Palomar to four Pacific Coast Athletic Conference championships in 13 years as head coach and his 2012-13 team came within two victories of qualifying for the CCCAA State Final Four but was eliminated in a road game at eventual state runner-up Chaffey. During his tenure as head coach and, prior to that, associate head coach for three seasons, the Comets have won six conference titles in 15 years.
O'Neill was Palomar's No. 1 assistant coach for three seasons, taking over as head coach at the beginning of the 2002-2003 campaign when he and guided the Comets to their third Pacific Coast Athletic Conference championship in four years.
In 2005-06, he coached Palomar to its fourth conference title in six seasons and has guided the Comets to two more championships during the 2012-13 and 2014-15 seasons.
O'Neill was associate head coach under Virgil Watson, now the head coach at Los Angeles Valley Community College, during Palomar's conference championship 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 campaigns.
O'Neill came to Palomar as an assistant after compiling a 343-208 record in 20 seasons on the high school level. He left Rancho Buena Vista High School in Vista, where he had been the school's only head coach since the school opened in 1987.
O'Neill's teams at Rancho Buena Vista compiled a 218-129 record, advanced to the CIF-San Diego Section quarterfinals or better every season, played in the CIF championship game four times. The Longhorns advanced to the semifinals three other times.
O'Neill received his B.S. degree from Pepperdine University. He began his basketball head coaching career in the CIF-Southern section. O'Neill was head coach at South Torrance High School for one season and was head coach at Bonita High School for seven seasons.
He coached Rancho Buena Vista to San Diego Section Division I championships in both 1994-95 and 1996-97. O'Neill's most successful team record was compiled by his 1997-98 squad, which went 27-3, but lost in the section semi-finals. He finished his tenure at RBV with five straight 20-win seasons and five consecutive Palomar League titles.
O'Neill lives in Vista with his wife Erin, and the couple's daughter Cahill, who attended Cal Poly (San Luis Obispo) and Palomar and is completing work on her Bachelor's degree at California State University San Marcos. John and Erin O'Neill's son, Casey, played basketball at Rancho Buena Vista High, graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and is an English language instructor in South Korea.
PHOTO ABOVE RIGHT: By Hugh Cox
Associate Head Coach
John Hotaling, whose first season on John O'Neill's Palomar staff was in 2008-09, is a former All-Pacific Coast Athletic Conference first-team selection for the Comets.
Hotaling originally arrived at Palomar as a red-shirt in 2003-04, O'Neill's second season as Palomar's head coach, out of Mission Bay High School. At Mission Bay, he played basketball (as a guard) and baseball (as a pitcher for Dennis Pugh, now the head coach at Cal State San Marcos).
Hotaling played for the Comets in 2004-05 and 2005-06, when he was team captain and an all-PCAC selection for a team that won the conference championship.
He received a full scholarship to NAIA Division I Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis, MO. Hotaling layed two years for the Hornets while majoring in Criminal Justice.
Hotaling received his Bachelor's degree from California State University San Marcos. He lives in San Marcos with his wife Audrey.
Michael Lewis is in his second stint on the Comets' coaching staff.
Lewis previously was an assistant coach at Palomar under Andy Gilmour when the Comets' 1987-88 team advanced to the state community college Final Eight, Palomar's first trip to the state finals since the 1962-63 season.
When Gilmour stepped down, Lewis spent one season as an assistant on Richard Johnson's Palomar staff before leaving to coach at Poway High School's an assistant for one season. He spent the next 17 seasons as an assistant at Southwestern College under John Cosentino.
Lewis played collegiately for Washington State University from 1975-1977, and later helped coach the Cougars' junior varsity team from 1978-80.
After one year teaching on the high school level in Vancouver, WA, he returned to Washington State, from where he he earned a Master's degree. While studying for his Master's, Lewis served as the university's strength coach.
During the summer, Lewis coaches and assists with the planning of the Michael Jordan Flight School Basketball Camp in Santa Barbara. Lewis instrucks boys and girls of all ages and has the opportunity to interact with current and former NBA players as well as NBA coaches. He also has coached at the LeBron James Kings Academy basketball camp in Akron, OH and La Jolla. Lewis previously worked the Cougar Cage Camp at Washington State, which at the time was the larges co-educational basketball camp in the nation.
Uros Vukovich, a San Marcos High School graduate, played organized basketball for the first time at Palomar, played two seasons under coach John O'Neill as a starting power forward and was a second-team All-Pacific Coast Conference selection for the Comets as a sophomore in 2006-2007.
A huge defensive presence, Vukovich blocked 96 shots in two seasons as a Comet, including nine blocks vs. Imperial Valley as a freshman in 2005-2006. He scored in double figures seven times, including a 22-point performance against San Diego Mesa on Feb. 18. Vukovich scored in double figures in six of the Comets' last seven regular-season games.
The following season as a sophomore, he shot 58.3 percent from the field (62.8 percent in PCC games, which ranked him third in the conference. Vukovich was third in the PCC in blocked shots, averaging 1.4 per game, with a high of five blocks while playing only 14 minutes in a blowout win over San Diego Miramar.
Vukovich accepted a scholarship to NAIA Division I Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis, MO, and was a starter for the Hornets for two seasons.
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