As I read the hundreds of tributes to Tom Konchalski, I can only think that he is irreplaceable. It is true that he was a tremendous evaluator of talent that virtually every college coach in the country trusted and relied on for his opinions. It was much more than being a tremendous scout! As everyone is saying, he was a man who always made whomever he was speaking to feel important. He always remembered your name as well as most of your family. Tom never failed to ask how everyone was doing. It was never a routine question; he always genuinely cared and carefully listened.
Tom came to Island Garden every year to watch AAU Championship Monday on Memorial Day. He would quietly walk in and find a spot. He would talk to everyone and make everyone feel important. Tom never spoke a harsh word about anyone. He was a modest man and was appreciative no matter if you were giving him the schedule, a copy of the scoresheet or a ride to the Long Island Railroad Station after a day of watching a dozen or more games. (I looked so forward to that short trip every year just to have the honor to be in Tom’s presence. He just made you feel happy and proud that we shared such a love for basketball).
Tom said to me many times that he loved coming to Island Garden. He gave the highest honor when he said Island Garden’s greatest quality is ” Ball For All”. He explained that everyone who came through our doors was treated equally and with respect. I made a sign that we now hang over the front door that simply says ” Ball For All”. Tom asked me not to give him credit but today I believe I can share that story with his thousands of admirers. It was the greatest honor anyone has given Island Garden.
We are all sad to lose such a wonderful man. He will never be replaced in New York Basketball. In my humble opinion, he was a saint on earth that brought happiness to everyone who had the pleasure of meeting him. I knew Tom was a very religious man which should give us all comfort because he has moved on to heaven and eternal happiness. He will be watching all of us and taking notes on his yellow pad from above.
Dan Klores, another great visionary and leader of youth, wrote an amazing story in the New York Post just before Tom’s passing that is a must read for anyone who knew Tom and loves basketball.
Thank you Tom for all you have done for literally hundreds of thousands of New York basketball players and coaches. Rest in peace.