Whether it has been in sneakers or dress shoes, Steve Konchalski has walked the floor at Oland Centre for more than 43 years.
For this season’s home opener, it was a bit different; the veteran head coach of the St. F.X. X-Men patrolled the sidelines in a recently-renovated gymnasium, which includes a new floor that bears his name.
“Wow, this is amazing,” Konchalski said, following a thunderous standing ovation during the dedication ceremony, Nov. 4, of Coach K Court.
“This is the greatest honour I could, probably, dream of,” he added.
Konchalski reflected on the first team practice in the ‘new’ OC, noting he asked the team to stand on the top row of seats. He said his feelings reminded him of a then-15-year-old New York native who took the floor at the iconic Madison Square Garden.
“In the context of my whole career,” he talked about his first season, one that included prize recruit Gil Green, who arrived from New York and helped lay the foundation for the future success of the X-Men program.
And there was also his friend and mentor – Father George Kehoe – the athletic director who hired him.
“His dream was for me to make [St. F.X. and Antigonish] my home,” Konchalski said, noting Kehoe, probably, made the “biggest impact” on his career.
He also recalled an “important lesson” he learned from Kehoe – that “it can’t be just about wins and losses,” while stressing the importance and impact of seeing his players graduate.
“And that’s held true,” Konchalski said.
Describing the life of a coach, including being on the road a lot, he stressed the importance of his family.
“Without their love and support,” Konchalski said, none of his successes would have happened.
That family includes wife, Charlene, and children Chris, Julienne and Maria.
“She is my best friend and ‘real assistant coach,’” Konchalski said of Charlene, who also received a standing ‘O’ from the crowd.
He noted his family will grow in the coming weeks, with the birth of the couple’s first grandchild.
“But that’s doesn’t mean I am going to retire,” Konchalski quipped.
St. F.X. President Kent MacDonald, who officially dedicated Coach K Court, praised Konchalski for countless contributions.
Leo MacPherson, St. F.X. Director of Athletics and Recreation, described him as a “sports icon.”
He noted the naming served as a fitting way in which to pay tribute to “an amazing legacy.”
MacPherson touched on some of Konchalski’s accomplishments, while noting, if he listed them all, the men’s game would not start until 10 o’clock.
Those “amazing accomplishments” include four national championships – one as a player with Acadia and three as X-Men head coach – along with 30 straight playoff appearances.
“And more than a few colourful technical fouls,” MacPherson quipped.
On the court
After the dedication, the X-Men battled the defending conference champion Dalhousie Tigers.
In a 95-78 loss, Kevin Bercy and Tristen Ross led St. F.X. with 14 points apiece, while Julius Antoine (12) and Daniel Passley also scored in double digits.
Sophomore guard Justin Andrew chipped in eight points, six assists, three rebounds and two steals.
In the first half of the doubleheader, the Tigers shaded the X-Women 51-48.
Junior point guard Chelsea Provo led the Blue and White with 14 points, while adding eight rebounds, two steals and one assist.
Freshman Kimberly Kingsbury finished with nine points, three rebounds and one steal.
Tamed by Tigers
A couple days earlier (Nov. 1), Dalhousie and St. F.X. opened the conference regular season at Dalplex in Halifax.
On the women’s side, Provo led St. F.X. with 18 points and five rebounds, while Katie MacIntosh added 10 points and seven rebounds, in a 60-58 setback.
On the men’s side, Bercy topped the Blue and White with a double-double – 18 points and 10 rebounds, while collecting three assists in a 94-75 loss.
Ross added 14 points, while Azaro Roker – off the bench – contributed 12 points and six rebounds.
Back on the court
The St. F.X. basketball squads were back on the court for a home-and-home series with Acadia (Nov. 9 and 11), with results unavailable at press time.
The teams will hit the road this weekend for a pair of games versus the Memorial SeaHawks in St. John’s.