Konchalski ironed out a unique 50-year career as an independent scout and a trusted advisor to literally hundreds of high school and college basketball coaches around the country. In his life, he monitored the development of legendary players like Michael Jordan, Lew Alcindor and Molloy’s future NBA all-star Kenny Anderson.
Konchalski was born January 8, 1947, and grew up in East Elmhurst and Elmhurst before settling in Forest Hills as an adult. He had attended The Church of the Ascension School (since closed) in Elmhurst and Archbishop Molloy, and eventually graduated from Fordham University with honors.
A Catholic school math teacher until 1979, Konchalski went to work for Howard Garfinkel, the founder of the prestigious Five-Star Basketball Camps and its sibling publication High School Basketball Illustrated, which reported on the top prospects in prep hoops and served as an invaluable tool to college recruiters around the country.
Garfinkel sold the HSBI report to Konchalski in 1984, and through his system of scouting and ranking players he would go on to revolutionize the industry.
“Tom was single handedly the most important person in the metro New York area for high school basketball, not to mention one of the nicest and most honest guys I have ever met in this business,” said Dennis Page, who publishes basketball magazine SLAM.
Konchalski, who traveled the East Coast for games by bus and train, never drove a car and had no use for an answering machine, cell phone or the Internet. He was known for having his own system of shorthand notes and stat reporting using only pad and paper.
He produced his HSBI report, which was subscribed to by college coaches all over North America, on a typewriter.
“I think most coaches and players saw him as a caretaker of grassroots basketball, a historian and key cog,” said University of Miami associate head coach and Molloy alum Chris Caputo, who first met Konchalski around 1994. “He was a mythical figure in the world of New York City basketball and beyond.”
Aside from the game of basketball, Konchalski had a keen eye for character and a vast knowledge of the landscape of every basketball community, regardless of size, in the northeast.
Because he often sat in the stands among parents and fans, Konchalski’s knowledge of the players’ lives extended beyond the hardwood. He remembered the names of the wives, children and parents of people he met in the basketball community and had a unique relationship with many people.
“Tom was seemingly at every high school basketball game, yet he made the time to be at my first game as a college head coach,” said Guy Rancourt, another Molloy alum and head coach at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury. “I will miss his friendship and advice.”
Konchalski and Garfinkel are both candidates for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2021 as contributors. Many in the basketball community are hoping that the decision makers in Springfield, Massachusetts, will posthumously award Hall of Fame recognition that is long overdue for one of Queens’ favorite sons.
“I think he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame when you think about how he pioneered what the scouting industry has become today,” Caputo added.
Konchalski, a lifelong bachelor, is survived by his sister Judy and older brother Steve, Canadian college basketball’s all-time winningest coach at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia; Steve’s wife, Charlene; nephews Chirstopher Konchalski and Jeff Ball, and nieces Julianne Konchalski-Santoso and Maria Konchalski; as well as grand-nephews Francis and Luther.