In a more than 40-year career as a basketball coach – one filled with countless accolades – Steve Konchalski has added another.
The veteran head coach of the St. F.X. X-Men is now a member of the Canadian Press Team of the Year for 2017, having served as a mentor coach with the Team Canada U19 men’s basketball squad.
“It is not something you really think about [receiving],” Konchalski said, when asked about the prestigious national honour, describing it as “pretty amazing.”
He noted the great accomplishments of many teams, including professional ones, across the country.
“It is a testament to the kids, and what they were able to accomplish,” Konchalski said.
Team Canada captured the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup title in July, with a win over Italy, which came on the heels of a thrilling semi-final victory over the United States.
It was the first gold medal for a Canadian basketball team at any world or Olympic competition.
Konchalski noted that, leading up to the tournament, much of the talk centered on “who wasn’t there.”
“We had six or seven players who would have been on the team that were not for a variety of reasons,” he said.
Konchalski added players “rallied and accepted their roles.”
In the online poll of broadcasters and sports editors from across the country, Team Canada garnered 17 of 63 votes, with Major League Soccer (MLS) Cup champions Toronto FC and Brad Gushue’s world champion curling rink tying for second with 10 votes apiece.
“It has to [rank high],” Konchalski said, when asked about the significance of being part of the gold-medal and history-making club.
He described his four Canadian university crowns – one as a player and three as a head coach – as a “wonderful experience.”
He added his pride in being part of the 1983 World University Games championship team, along with former X-Man John Hatch, which he called “an unbelievable experience.”
Considering basketball has “exploded” across Canada, in recent years, Konchalski said it was just a matter of time before there would be a “breakthrough on the international stage.”
He said the growing successes of age-group teams, such as the U19 contingent, as well as the senior national clubs. Konchalski noted not to mention there are now 12 Canadians playing in the NBA – a number second only to the United States.
Konchalski predicted medals for Team Canada – maybe even gold – are on the horizon in the world championships and Olympics.
As for his role as a mentor coach with Canada Basketball, he described it as “really rewarding.”
Konchalski said the “most satisfying” aspect of the experience has been contributing to the development of Team Canada head coach Roy Rana, who also leads the Ryerson University Rams program in Toronto, which has become a perennial contender in U SPORTS competition.