When longtime high school basketball scout and devout Catholic Tom Konchalski died Feb. 8 at age 74, it seemed like the entire Diocese of Brooklyn lost a dear friend.
Konchalski was a consummate gentleman, so it’s no wonder that tributes poured in for this giant of a man following his two-year battle with cancer.
Recently, another tribute is helping Konchalski’s legacy to live on at his high school alma mater, Archbishop Molloy H.S., Briarwood. After Konchalski passed, his lifelong friend Joe Dunleavy acquired the iconic Swintec typewriter that Konchalski used to produce his renowned High School Basketball Illustrated (HSBI) newsletter.
Dunleavy then donated the typewriter to Archbishop Molloy to be put on display as a way to honor what Konchalski meant to the school community. The typewriter temporarily sits atop the desk of another Stanner legend: the late great Jack Curran, who coached basketball and baseball at the school for more than five decades.
“Tom’s been my friend, mentor, father figure and coach for 53 years,” said Dunleavy, a salesman for American Paper and Supply Co. who graduated from Archbishop Molloy in 1975. “We go way back. I met him when I was in the third grade. He was a wonderful person.”
Dunleavy grew up in the same parish as Konchalski — Church of the Ascension in Elmhurst. In fact, Konchalski coached Dunleavy in Catholic Youth Organization basketball at the parish. Dunleavy went on to play freshman and junior varsity basketball for the Stanners.
He later broke into coaching and spent 10 years as an assistant for the Hofstra University, Hempstead, L.I., men’s team. Like he did for so many local coaches and players, Konchalski was the one who helped Dunleavy secure the position.
As his close friend, Dunleavy came into possession of lots of articles, speeches and other documents in Konchalski’s files. The typewriter, though, was what set Konchalski apart as being iconic.
Konchalski produced and mailed his famed HSBI newsletter 16 times per year to more than 200 college basketball coaches nationwide. He did so without the use of a computer or cellphone. He instead relied on his Swintec typewriter to provide the evaluations for hundreds of high school student-athletes up and down the East Coast.
Dunleavy said that as Konchalski was nearing his retirement in May 2020, he started getting nervous that the one remaining store in the city that had his specific typewriter rivets in stock would soon run out. Luckily, he had just enough to finish and file his final HSBI newsletter.
“That typewriter … just think of all the great basketball players whose names were knocked out on that typewriter,” Dunleavy said.
According to Dunleavy, one of the final documents Konchalski wrote on the typewriter was a letter of recommendation to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame supporting the enshrinement case of Howard Garfinkel, founder of both the Five-Star Basketball Camp and the HSBI newsletter. Sure enough, Garfinkel was inducted in May as part of the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2021.
There’s already an active group of coaches lobbying for Konchalski to be inducted into the Hall of Fame next year. Having all the supporting documentation from his 43 years of producing the newsletter can only help his case.
“We kept all these files, since someday they may be of value because there’s so much history there,” Dunleavy said. “Tom was a brilliant writer. He could put things in words like nobody. No one did more for more people, especially in basketball. He spent his whole life doing what he could for other people, and he did a lot of it through basketball.”
When he gifted the typewriter to Archbishop Molloy, Dunleavy did so with one condition. If Konchalski were to be enshrined in Springfield, Mass., and the Hall of Fame asked for the typewriter, the school would donate it.
Archbishop Molloy happily agreed. For now, the display of Konchalski’s typewriter on Curran’s desk is a symbol of how many lives both great men shaped within the diocesan sports scene.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at email@example.com.