Remembering Legendary Excessive Faculty Hoops Scout, Tom Konchalski

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Legendary basketball scout Tom Konchalski died from prostate most cancers on February 8 on the age of 74. His passing prompted heartfelt obituaries whereas social media overflowed with tributes from most of the actually hundreds of gamers, coaches, followers, and media members whose lives have been touched by this nice man. I’m honored to have been assigned a chunk on the devoutly Catholic Mr. Konchalski for the “Future Concern” of the basketball bible.

A local of Queens, NY, Konchalski adopted in his brother Steve’s footsteps as a powerful pupil at native Archbishop Molloy Excessive Faculty. Whereas Steve was a standout basketball participant who performed faculty ball in Canada earlier than turning into a Canadian Basketball Corridor of Fame coach at St. Francis Xavier College in Nova Scotia, the 6-6 Tom centered extra on watching the sport. He wrote for the Molloy pupil newspaper after which attended Fordham College within the Bronx, graduating magna cum laude with levels in political science and philosophy.

Canadian hoops insider and former NBA scout Greg Dole says of the brothers, “A parallel I draw between the 2 males is that they didn’t take. They have been very beneficiant with their time, had an actual love of the sport and shared it with younger individuals. They earned a residing, but it surely was a humble residing. They have been old-guard custodians of the sport who by no means regarded to bleed it.”

After faculty, Tom taught math and science for 10 years at Catholic elementary colleges and regarded getting a PhD however by no means misplaced his ardour for scouting. He began working for 5-Star founder Howard Garfinkel’s service, Excessive Faculty Basketball Illustrated (motto: “Others let you know the place they’ve been. We let you know the place they’re going!”), finally shopping for it outright in 1984 as Garf centered on the camp enterprise. Konchalski’s large writing expertise and reminiscence have been completely suited to a world by which dependable info is king.

I realized of Tom Konchalski the best way a number of younger suburban New Yorkers did—through his appearances on the outdated MSG Community present, “Excessive Faculty Sports activities Weekly,” hosted by Mike Fast. Beginning in 1990, Konchalski appeared on the present’s “basketball preview” each December and as a supply in profiles of tri-state ballers repeatedly. For a highschool child who couldn’t play a lot however liked following the sport, getting inside grime on the perfect native youngsters was like discovering your grails at a mom-and-pop shoe retailer.

Relying in your age and the place you grew up, possibly the highschool baller you first adopted was somebody like Connie Hawkins (that was Tom’s reply), LeBron James or Zion Williamson. I messed with Kenny Anderson, Stephon Marbury and Jamal Mashburn on the excessive finish, but it surely was name-dropping lesser identified cats like Terrence Rencher and Jerry “Ice” McCullough that actually made me really feel like a metropolis hoops skilled. Konchalski knew extra about all these guys than most of us learn about our cousins.

Remembers Fast, “When it got here time to preview the basketball season, I leaned on Tom to teach me. Our present modified names, sponsors and channels, however Tom and I did a tri-state basketball preview yearly from 1990-2015. I’ve come to seek out out it was one of the vital appreciated reveals we did yearly and launched lots of people to him. It was like clockwork—he’d ship me his HSBI season preview two weeks earlier than we taped. I’d overlook to open it ’til the morning of our taping and attempt to examine, however actually, all I needed to do was tee him up and he’d take it from there. Again then, the Day by day Information, New York Newsday and the Put up all had full-time highschool reporters. And we have been on MSG, out there in 8 million properties. The ’90s have been positively the heyday of highschool media protection in New York.”

Having realized of HSBI via Konchalski’s TV appearances, some highschool mates and I weaseled our method into a number of copies and ate ’em up like sweet. Each participant I’d heard of from the Northeast, and lots of I hadn’t, profiled by their vitals and Konchalski’s rating (1-5 with pluses and minuses the place relevant, together with pithy one liners that acquired to the core of the participant).

SLAM was based in 1994—world in idea, New York in its coronary heart. I acquired to SLAM in ’97. Recruiting protection had expanded, and as we hit the 2000s, the web put information at our fingertips, particularly in regards to the huge names we centered on. So Tom’s worth to SLAM was in his historic perspective. Have to reality test or get a quote about Lew Alcindor, Chibbs or the mercurial Lloyd Daniels? Name Tom and he’d let you know what the participant had been like. Since he lacked a cellphone, pc, e mail deal with or—save for a short stretch, an answering machine—calling Tom meant dialing his 718 landline and hoping he’d reply. If it was a weekday morning, he usually did.

Matt Caputo, a former SLAM staffer, grew up close to Konchalski in Queens and liked speaking hoops with “The Glider.” Matt’s older brother, Christian, is a Molloy grad who’s been a DI assistant for 19 years, the final 10 at Miami.

“I don’t assume there’d be a SLAM with out him. The idea of rating gamers, summaries, waves of knowledge, that was Tom’s factor. Everybody who works in basketball benefitted from him,” Caputo says. “He was so inclusive. He’d rank 200 youngsters in New York Metropolis as a result of, properly, some coach in Pig Knuckle, AR, may want New York’s Two hundredth-best participant. His largest asset was figuring out the intimate background of the gamers. Not simply grades and highschool coach. Dad and mom. Church. Any kin associated to basketball within the bloodline. You paid for that HSBI subscription and acquired a 24-hour useful resource.”

SLAM founder Dennis Web page, as huge a prep hoops junkie as you’ll discover, left the reporting to us writers and editors however had related historic experiences with Konchalski within the final yr. “We began taping interviews with him to get his opinion on all the nice guys,” Web page says. “He knew, with out exception, about each single participant we requested him about.”

Provides SLAM board member Peter Robert Casey, one other hoops lifer, “I knew who Tom was since I went to 5-Star in 1996. Then I ran into him in 2001 whereas going to NYU, at West 4th, and launched myself. A few years later I used to be residing at house, unsure about my profession path, and I used to be like, I’ll attain out to Tom Konchalski and get his recommendation about working in basketball. I emailed Steve and stated I’d like to get involved together with your brother. Good luck with that, he replies. Attempt to write him a letter. So I did—instructed him I revered him and would love a name for some recommendation. A few months later, he calls me! If you wish to coach, there’s no substitute for expertise. Name your highschool or AAU coach and see in case you can volunteer. Emailed my AAU coach and volunteered with him for an entire season. My ardour for basketball got here roaring again. In 2008 I’m serving to out the EBC at Rucker Park and I see Tom, and he stated, Why don’t you ask SLAM in case you can write in regards to the EBC Finals? So I hit you up and also you let me write about it, and a few different items. An entire sequence of occasions, all triggered by his phrases.”

So, yeah, the nice Tom Konchalski was #SLAMfam.

I might quote one other 50 media members who liked the man. However he didn’t work for us. Nah, the e-newsletter, three-to-six pages faithfully produced on a typewriter in his Forest Hills house, then xeroxed, stapled and mailed out in hand-addressed envelopes 16 occasions a yr, was for school coaches solely.

“Ask him a couple of child on the cellphone, he’d let you know if he was a very good match,” says long-time coach Mitch Buonaguro. “Like after I was at Villanova, he’d say, I don’t know if this child is a match for Villanova’s lecturers. However he could be proper for St. Joe’s, if you wish to name somebody over there. His veracity for information, his insatiable urge for food for attending to know the child and the overall analysis he offered have been so useful.”

“We’ve been utilizing [HSBI] all alongside,” says Kyle Steinway, an assistant at Sacred Coronary heart College in Connecticut. “If you get into the recruiting world, you study he’s probably the most trusted evaluator. The rationale he continued to face out, at the same time as there have been increasingly choices, was his character. Zero self-promotion. Tom simply gave an trustworthy analysis. He was additionally true to his roots. He coated the northeast. He coated the video games, and never simply the massive video games. A number of the different experiences would include profiles of all these top-100 youngsters. I don’t must pay to know that Cole Anthony is sweet. Inform me about Isaac Grant! At our stage you actually appreciated that.”

Earlier than Sacred Coronary heart, Steinway coached at Stonehill School, his alma mater Windfall, Newberry School and Hofstra. What number of of these applications subscribed to HSBI? “All of them,” Steinway exclaims earlier than texting some pictures of the final problem.

“First web page had somewhat colour within the brand, the remainder simply black and white. Typed. I don’t assume I ever noticed a mistake.”

Davidson’s Matt McKillop is one other long-time assistant endlessly grateful for Konchalski’s work—and kindness. “My father [longtime Davidson head man Bob McKillop. Ask Steph Curry about him!] and Tom go method again. I’ve been teaching right here 13 years and my father has been right here since 1989, and HSBI got here the entire time. Tom had actually cool and distinctive methods of describing youngsters’ traits. ‘Nostril must calcify’ meant the child needed to get more durable. That’s pretty much as good because it will get. One other factor that was actually cool is that he would deal with totally different points to totally different members of the teaching employees. You’d be grabbing the mail and knew it was HSBI from the packaging. When it had your title on it, in his handwriting, it was so particular.”

Evan Pickman was the top coach at School of Staten Island from 1970-84, then had a 26-year profession as an NBA scout with the Cavs and Clippers. He acquired near Konchalski, a real modern, working summers at 5-Star. “I’m 74 and I’ve seen a number of dying, however this loss is tough for lots of us to take,” Pickman sighs. “Once I met Tom, I used to be scouting, not recruiting. I began working on the camp and speaking to him about gamers. I used to be scouting faculty gamers, and he knew all of them. He wouldn’t say something adverse, however he had a method of claiming a child was able to taking part in within the NBA…or not. I really assume you could possibly take anybody that likes basketball and is aware of it somewhat, they usually might go to a school sport and say which two guys could make the NBA. What Tom did was a lot more durable. The degrees of play he needed to break down—this child might play at Duke, however this child belongs at Staten Island—that’s a wide array.

“Tom began coming to my spouse and I’s house in Manhattan for dinner. We’d have a celebration on draft night time and Tom and Garf would come. It grew to the place we’d have 12-14 guys coming over, crammed in our one-bedroom house, and Tom made certain we stored up the custom even after Garf died. We couldn’t do the total draft social gathering in November due to COVID so it was simply me, Tom and my spouse. And it was among the best nights we ever had. I thank God for that friendship.”

Regardless of Konchalski’s resolute dedication to a tech-free existence (he lastly acquired a cellphone however barely realized learn how to use it), the following gen scouts know what he meant to the sport. Justinn Delaney is the proprietor and creator of @njhooprecruit, the final word IG account for Backyard State basketball. “Earlier than I knew who he was, I acknowledged that outdated man with the be aware pad,” Delaney remembers. “I met him primarily at Hamilton Park in Jersey Metropolis, watching guys like Louis King and Jahvon Quinerly. He didn’t know what the hell I used to be doing with my cellphone, however we all the time had form, basketball conversations. Center of summer time, 90 levels, it might simply be me and him at mid-court, within the prime row of the steel bleachers.

“He simply busted his ass,” Delaney continues. “It is a 70-year-old man hitting the streets as onerous as me. It validated what I used to be doing. If I noticed him, I knew I used to be doing the appropriate factor, seeing the appropriate hoops, overlaying the appropriate youngsters. It was humbling to see what onerous work seems to be like. Hamilton Park on a Friday night time. Jamaica  on Saturday morning. He was there.”

Konchalski impressed journalists, held the important thing to coaches’ job safety and confirmed generations of scouts learn how to do it. His worth to gamers was even higher. The outpouring of affection for this man on social media was most poignant when the phrases got here from gamers who felt like they owed a few of their success to him. Mark Jackson. Tobias Harris. Julius Hodge. Bobby Hurley. Dana Dingle. And on and on.

The love was continuous. Russ Smith, a Molloy man himself, may need put it greatest on IG: “Pricey Tom Konchalski, phrases can not categorical what you imply to me as an individual, participant & Archbishop Molloy alum. You together with Coach Curran on the time when faculties by no means regarded my method all the time had my greatest intentions…Your mannerisms for the sport of basketball have been so swish in an trade the place unprofessionalism is so widespread…Thanks for believing in me if you didn’t should. Thanks for serving to me. My dad & mother loves you. You genuinely make New York basketball a greater place.”

Konchalski’s reminiscence was well-known and has starred in most tales about him. I’ve acquired an instance that’s significantly pricey to me. Considered one of my oldest mates, Chris White, was a tall child from Brooklyn with hoops in his blood who finally performed at Brown College. “I went to 5-Star round 15 years outdated and was on a group with Reggie Freeman, Charles Jones and Andre Patterson. There was no cause to observe me in that group. Tom Konchalski comes as much as me as quickly as he sees me and says, ‘You’re Albee White’s son.’ What?’ ‘I scouted your father and I acknowledged him in you.’ Unbelievably bizarre. My father had been a very good participant at Erasmus Excessive when that meant one thing, however that was nearly 30 years earlier. I didn’t even develop up in the identical home with my father. Then I ran into Tom in an airport 20 years later and it’s like, Chris White, how are you? From my dad in highschool to me within the airport was nearly a 50-year hole! And I didn’t have a profession that anybody cared about. He simply knew and remembered so many particulars. If you happen to have been wherever in that world up to now 50 years, Tom Konchalski had an entire profile of you in his head. We’ve misplaced a residing encyclopedia.”

So how will we honor this man? Collectively, let’s be certain that he will get within the Basketball Corridor of Fame, the place he’s up for nomination this yr (as are Curran, Garf and McKillop—New York rise up!). Media members, deal with one another with respect. Followers, let’s respect greatness in gamers and be aware their flaws with compassion, like he did. As individuals? The horse has left the proverbial barn on the subject of our know-how habit. However can we maintain our handshakes agency? Make eye contact when speaking? Bear in mind a number of extra particulars about individuals’s lives? Tom Konchalski didn’t want all of the distractions of recent life as a result of he was so wealthy in issues that mattered.

 “I really feel dangerous for that eighth grade child who received’t know who Tom Konchalski is,” says Fast, “to get to shake his hand and be written about by him and possibly get to varsity due to what Tom would have written about him. As of three pm on February 8, New York basketball won’t ever be the identical once more.”

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