"Officially, I have not heard anything. I love that format. I love Hoda," O'Connell told E! News this weekend at WeHoliday inside WeVillage Los Angeles. "Hoda is an infectious, beautiful soul. It's such an exciting time in her life. It would be an honor for anyone who gets to be there with her."
When asked if he would be interested in working with Kotb, O'Connell, who has guest hosted and appeared on the show several times, gave an enthusiastic yes.
"To work with Hoda? Of course! Anybody would be. It would be an honor. Yes, of course," the 44-year-old said at the event, which raised money for the Los Angeles Fire Department Foundation. "Is it happening? No."
He said that while Gifford's exit makes him "sad" for those watching Today at home, he's excited for the 65-year-old's future.
"I'm sad for me, the viewer," he confessed. "Am I sad for Kathie Lee? No, she's the hardest working lady in show business. Not only in television but music and Broadway...Kathie Lee and Hoda—those are my girls."
NBC has announced no decision, although many have wondered if Today show contributor Jenna Bush Hager will see more airtime and fill the position. A source told Entertainment Tonight last week that network executives are "strongly considering" Hager, with the source adding that she is "very well liked" on the show."
"The likelihood of it going to [Hager] is high," the insider said.
Whoever it is, ET reported that Kotb will be the one to decide.
"We don't know if it's going to be a woman or a man or anything in between," Gifford told the outlet last week. "We don't know! We're not judging, whoever Hoda wants, Hoda gets!"
When Kotb was hesitant to admit that she'd have a say in the matter, Gifford doubled down. "Yes! No matter what she says, yes. It comes down to her."
"Nobody can fill those, no one can fill those shoes," Kotb said of her longtime co-host.
Gifford revealed last Tuesday that she'd be leaving Hoda & Kathie Lee on the show's 11th anniversary in April. She fought back tears while making the announcement, especially while speaking to Kotb about their special friendship.0comments
"I have something to share with everybody and it's bittersweet, as these things always are, but I've been here almost 11 years," she said on air. "Thought I would stay one year. Something happened along the way. Fell in love with a beautiful Egyptian goddess and now, when it's our 11th anniversary, I'm gonna be leaving the Today show. It's an exciting time for me and I'm thrilled about all the projects that are coming up, but it's also hard because the reason that I stayed longer than a year is because I love everybody here so much."
Today airs Mondays through Fridays at 7 a.m. ET.