Konchalski was born in Manhattan and moved to Elmhurst, Queens, as a child. While he did not possess athletic gifts himself, he fell in love with the game of basketball and spent time in his youth following Connie Hawkins from playground to playground to watch him play.
After graduating from Archbishop Molloy High School in Queens, Konchalski attended Fordham College at Rose Hill, where he majored in political science and philosophy. Upon graduating magna cum laude, he began teaching eighth grade social studies and math. He stuck with teaching for just over a decade before he turned his passion for basketball into a career.
He was hired in 1979 to work for Howard Garfinkel, the founder of Five-Star Basketball Camp and publisher of a scouting newsletter called the High School Basketball Insider (HSBI). After writing the newsletter for five years, Konchalski bought HSBI from Garfinkel in 1984, and he continued to write and run it until retiring in 2020. His impact on the game is evidenced by his candidacy for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2021 as a contributor.
An Oracle-Like Predictor of Players’ Potential
Konchalski’s process was the stuff of legend in the basketball world. He would enter and leave gymnasiums, in the New York metropolitan region and beyond, as quietly as a six-foot-six scout could, making his way to the top row of the bleachers to watch games among fans and players’ families. He would focus on a handful of players during games, jotting down just about any kind of statistic one could track, as well as pithy descriptions to include in the newsletter (“Scores like we breathe,” “Bodyguard w/surgeon’s touch”). His notes, according to those who knew him, were almost supplementary, as he reportedly had a photographic memory of every moment in a basketball game.
At his home in Forest Hills, Queens, Konchalski—who didn’t own a car, cell phone, or computer—would turn his notes and recollections into the final HSBI form: stapled, typewritten, hard-copy pages that he placed into manila envelopes and sent out to college basketball coaches around the country 16 times a year. The newsletter’s tagline was, “Others tell you where they’ve been. We tell you where they’re going.” And the biggest names in college coaching, from Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski to Villanova’s Jay Wright, trusted Konchalski as an oracle-like predictor of players’ potential for success.
‘Respected and Loved By All’
Many of those same coaches expressed their admiration for Konchalski upon his passing, which came two years after he was diagnosed with metastatic cancer. Krzyzewski said of him, “He was a saint. There was something divine about his work and about him.” Kentucky’s John Calipari called him “one of the best human beings I have ever come across.”
Outside of his eye for talent, Konchalski was known for his personal touch. He got to know players and their families and placed an emphasis on helping people make their lives better through the sport. When he retired last year, he said, “I love the game of basketball and I love the people in the game of basketball, the players and the coaches.”
Frank McLaughlin, FCRH ’69, athletic director emeritus and associate vice president of student affairs for athletic alumni relations and external affairs at Fordham, described Konchalski as “a gentle giant, respected and loved by all.”
“[He] helped so many student-athletes achieve their dreams. Tom was truly a man for others.”