Tom Konchalski, one of the most respected and beloved figures on New York City’s high school basketball scene, died Monday after a battle with cancer. He was 74.
Konchalski, who attended Archbishop Molloy High School in Queens, was a fixture at basketball games throughout the five boroughs and at summer league games and camps, sitting high in the bleachers in order to have an unobstructed view of the court.
His evaluations were crucial to college coaches, who used his reports to help determine whether a player was worthy of a scholarship. He produced his High School Basketball Illustrated on a typewriter, but it was a must-have for those who needed to keep track of the city’s top basketball talent.
Konchalski, who stood 6 feet, 6 inches tall, was easy to spot and did not try to hide from the players he was evaluating, or anyone else in the gym, including reporters. Before games and at halftime, he would offer a firm handshake, often holding his grip while he inquired about the well-being of one’s family members. He offered warm holiday greetings, often weeks after the holidays had passed.
During games, Konchalski scribbled notes onto a yellow legal pad and asked — politely — not to be disturbed in order to focus on his main purpose: watching basketball.
Konchalski knew just about everyone in the worlds of high school and college basketball. He played the role of a humble politician at basketball camps that were heavily attended by the most notable coaches in the college ranks. Coaches like Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim would go out of their way to chat with him. When done, he would return to the bleachers to talk to parents and spectators.
In addition to his meticulous reports and warm, friendly personality, Konchalski was known for a variety of quirks.
When talking to reporters about certain players, he used a large repertoire of catchphrases to describe their abilities. “He’s got more shakes than Tom Carvel,” he would say when describing a player who was quick and active on the court.
As reliable as Konchalski was, he was also very difficult to get in touch with due to the fact that he continued to use a rotary phone with no call-waiting and no answering machine long after the advent of both. He did not have a cell phone, either.
A longtime resident of Forest Hills, Konchalski did not have a driver’s license. Instead, he took public transportation to most games. He retired from scouting and producing his report just last year.