Archbishop Molloy High School mourns loss of legendary basketball scout Tom Konchalski

Tom Konchalski, 64′ alum of Archbishop Molloy High School. (Courtesy of Archbishop Molloy High School)

The Archbishop Molloy High School community is mourning the loss of Stanner Hall of Famer and class of ’64 alum Thomas Konchalski, a Forest Hills native and legendary basketball scout who died at the age of 74 on Monday, Feb. 8. 

Konchalski had been battling metastatic cancer for the past two years. Last week, he was moved to the Calvary Hospital in the Bronx, a nonprofit institution specializing in hospice and palliative care.

For more than 40 years, Konchalski established himself as one of the most knowledgeable and respected high school basketball scouts in New York City. 

Molloy’s President Richard Karsten said Konchalski was an excellent talent scout who evaluated and helped nurture many of the brightest stars in New York City basketball. 

“The breadth of his knowledge and expertise laid a foundation that many have celebrated and emulated with a great deal of respect. Beyond his legendary career, Mr. Konchalski was an even better friend to so many people, not only in our school community, but throughout the world of basketball,” Karsten said. “He was also a faith-filled man who believed in the power of prayer and compassion for others. We at Archbishop Molloy High School pray that Konchalski is now at peace in God’s care.” 

In May 2020, Konchalski announced his retirement after over four decades of influential work as a renowned high school basketball scout, but not before carving out an inspiring legacy that will continue to impact the sport of basketball for years to come, especially in his hometown of New York City. 

“A loyal Stanner, Mr. Konchalski attended countless basketball games in the Jack Curran Gymnasium as well as many of Molloy’s alumni events. Each visit to his alma mater was marked by conversations with friends, former players, alumni and fellow scouts, all of whom routinely marveled at his recollection of players, stats and moments,” Archbishop Molloy said in a statement. 

Michael McCleary, Molloy’s athletic director and head basketball coach, said they “lost a legend in basketball, but just a great human being.”

“He was always a gentleman with class and is really just an angel here on earth,” said McCleary, who remembered Konchalski as his eighth-grade math teacher. “He treated everyone with respect from the highest level basketball coach to the lowest level basketball coach. He made sure he knew everyone’s name and paid attention to every detail; he could sum up a player and his abilities in the most concise, clear manner.”

Those who have crossed paths with Konchalski will miss his legendary handshake that was firm and strong, according to McCleary. 

“He wouldn’t let go until you made contact with him and he was finished with his statement,” McCleary said. “He certainly taught many young men and looked them in the eye while making a strong physical handshake.”

Konchalski is well known for his self-produced HSBI Report, a comprehensive pamphlet circulated among New York City’s basketball coaching community, according to Archbishop Molloy. He rated and evaluated thousands of basketball players during his legendary career, recognizing and touting many outstanding players who went on to successful collegiate and professional playing careers. 

Among the players Konchalski scouted are Kenny Smith ’83 (North Carolina, 2X NBA Champion), Kenny Anderson ’89, (Georgia Tech, NBA All-Star), Sundiata Gaines ’04 (University of Georgia, NBA), Russ Smith ’09 (Louisville, NCAA Champion, NBA) and Moses Brown ’18 (McDonald’s All-American, UCLA, NBA), among others. 

The HSBI Report was written on Konchalski’s typewriter, and was mailed 16 times a year to the more than 200 college coaches who subscribed to it. The report provided evaluations and rankings for hundreds of prospects. Konchalski never had a driver’s license, owned a car, a cellphone, a computer or answering machine. He took public transportation everywhere if a coach or friend was unable to give him a ride. 

Ron Naclerio, a basketball coach at Benjamin Cardozo High School in Bayside, said people will remember Konchalski’s generosity and kindness.

“He looked at you as a person and knew so much about you, so you felt like he really cared about you,” said Naclerio, who met Konchalski in the fall of 1982, when he was a sophomore playing JV basketball for Cardozo High School. “I don’t remember anything in my lifetime as a basketball player or coach without Tom being in my life. I was a 10th-grader in Cardozo and he came into my life … and now if we resume playing this year or next year, I’ll finally coach and Tom won’t be around.”

(From l. to r.) Benjamin Cardozo High School Coach Ron Naclerio, New York Mets Ambassador Omar Minaya and Legendary Basketball Scout Tom Konchalski. (Courtesy of Ron Naclerio)

After 49 years of friendship, Naclerio recalled his final moments with Konchalski at Calvary Hospital the day before he passed. They had talked for almost an hour when Konchalski gave his famous firm handshake, one last time. 

“The second I walked in, he looked up and said, ‘Ron, so glad to see you. Please sit down.’ He reached out, and you can see how frail his hand is, and I turned my head because I realized that was going to be the last handshake he and I ever had,”’ Naclerio said. 

As a coach gaining more knowledge, especially during the pandemic, Naclerio said, “one branch of him learning has been ripped off the tree” now without Konchalski and the late Howard Garfinkel, a legendary scout who founded the High School Basketball Illustrated magazine and sold it to Konchalski in 1984.

“I realized now that when I told him I’ll be back tomorrow to see him, he said, ‘Ron, don’t waste your time.’ I think that was a nice way of him telling me that he won’t be here tomorrow,’” Naclerio said. 

A lifelong bachelor, Konchalski is survived by his older brother Steve, the longtime basketball coach at St. Francis University in Nova Scotia, his wife, Charlene, and their three adult children, Chris, Julianne, and Maria and one grandchild.

Archbishop Molloy High School will share more information as it becomes available.