Tom Konchalski, one of the country’s most respected high school basketball scouts, died Monday at the age of 74, according to sources.
The Forest Hills native, who attended Archbishop Molloy High School in Queens, battled metastatic cancer for the past two years and was moved to hospice care last week. Konchalski spent 43 years evaluating college basketball prospects.
He wrote for and ran the High School Basketball Insider (HSBI) Report since 1979 and took over ownership of it from Five-Star Basketball Camp founder Howard Garfinkel in 1984. Konchalski, who retired in May 2020 as his health declined, learned the game from Garfinkel and legendary Molloy coach Jack Curran.
The HSBI Report, written on Konchalski’s typewriter, was mailed 16 times a year to the more than 200 college coaches who subscribed to it. It provided evaluations and rankings for hundreds of prospects.
“If Tom says a kid’s going to be a star, you can mark it down,” Garfinkel told New York Magazine in 2010. “He’s a very keen judge of talent.”
He did all of this without owning a car, a cell phone, a computer or an answering machine — outside a trial period that lasted six months in 2003. The 6-foot-6 Konchalski took public transportation everywhere if a coach or friend was unable to give him a ride.
He was nicknamed “The Glider” because of how he tried to move in and out of gyms without being noticed at times. He usually sat in the top row to take detailed notes on a yellow legal pad in his famous chicken-scratch handwriting. His photographic memory allowed him to describe prospects he’d seen — from Division I caliber prospects to Division III — with both his famous catchphrases such as “he scores like we breathe” and a nuanced breakdown of his footwork or shooting form. Konchalski told The Post when he retired that he did it all “to help people,” both the kids and the coaches who subscribed, many of whom became his friends.
“Tom is one of the best and smartest human beings on this planet,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski told Sporting News in 2020. “His instant recall of players, coaches, games and events is unmatched. He helped thousands of players get the opportunity to play college basketball at all levels.”
Konchalski also brought with him a gentlemanly kindness, an encyclopedic memory of New York City basketball history and of the people he met. He greeted everyone with a firm handshake, eye contact and an inquiry about how someone close to them was doing. He did this with all the prospects he scouted and many of their parents as well, wanting to get a feel for their character, makeup and backgrounds beyond what he saw on the court.
“He knows ‘this kid’s dentist is so-and-so; he was delivered at birth by this doctor,’” former Seton Hall coach and college basketball analyst Bill Raftery told Sports Illustrated in 2009.
Konchalski’s grace and his work ethic made him a beloved figure in the basketball community.
“One of the best human beings ever,” Villanova coach Jay Wright tweeted on the day Konchalski retired. “Tom Konchalski lives his life for others! An amazing force in college and B-ball recruiting.”
Konchalski wasn’t a very good basketball player, but he described himself as a junkie for the sport who had been watching the game since the 1950s — idolizing the likes of Connie Hawkins. He graduated magna cum laude from Fordham University and began teaching eighth-grade social studies and math before finding his vocation-like calling to be a basketball scout.
“I love the game of basketball and I love the people in the game of basketball, the players and the coaches,” Konchalski said upon retirement. “You read about the bad guys, but I think there are so many more of the good guys.”
Tom Konchalski was one of the good guys.
— Additional reporting by Zach Braziller
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