Courtesy @TUMBasketball on Twitter

Eric Konkol heads Hurricane as basketball coach

Sports editor Callie Hummel talks to the new head basketball coach about his plans for the program’s future.

When Coach Eric Konkol came back to the University of Tulsa after 21 years away, he noticed the growth of the school, the campus and the community. Now, he’s back to grow the basketball team in the same way.

The new men’s basketball head coach at the University of Tulsa comes straight from a seven-year head coaching position at LA Tech with a 153-75 overall record. Throughout such a successful career at LA Tech and working with colleagues he thoroughly enjoyed, Tulsa stayed on his mind because of our rich tradition and community. The University of Tulsa was Konkol’s first experience as a basketball coach, as a student assistant for the school during the 2000-2001 season.

Community is a big aspect of Coach Konkol’s coaching style, and he holds it to almost as much importance as decreasing the margin from good to great. Konkol thinks that “college sports are a big deal and a big part of the environment in college.” An individual team is part of the athletic department with other teams, the school with all the students and the community of everyone living in Tulsa. This can make the team feel like they are part of something bigger, feeling the enthusiasm, and play a more competitive game due to the fans’ high energy.

Fostering an internal community is just as important, bringing a new phrase to the TU basketball team, “iron sharpens iron.” Konkol knows from firsthand experience that a good relationship with your teammates can take you much farther than just having a winning season. Konkol played his first two years of college at Wisconsin Platteville where he met Duffy Conroy. Although both men transferred their second year, the relationship they built stayed strong. Post college, the pair drove around the country together hosting basketball camps in hopes to one day become coaches. Conroy was just recently appointed to an assistant coach position with TU after spending his last seven years on the LA Tech coaching staff with Konkol.

Konkol and Conroy’s story is a true testament to community and “if you do this thing right, you’re gonna become the best basketball player you can be… and then you can have lasting friendships from this experience as well.”
While the team is striving to foster their community, they are also looking to build it. Wanting to recruit from the inside out, the new coaching staff has hit the ground running with recruiting. Already adhering to their promises of looking for more local talent, the staff has signed two high school seniors from Texas to add to the guards for TU.

There might be bigger and more athletically focused schools around the area, but Konkol is confident that pitching TU as a “perfect marriage between academics and athletics… individual attention, and commitment to helping young people grow” is enough to put TU at the top of their list.

There is already a lot of talent on the TU team, therefore the pre-season will be spent working to polish the small parts of basketball, so the team can put them all together to play competitive games. Since “it’s a game that’s decided in a few possessions,” working on having a low turnover percentage, playing aggressively and keeping teams from having multiple shots per possession are the big picture tasks for this season. The way they are “shrinking the little margin from good to great” on those big picture ideas is seen in the daily work of players pushing each other during workouts and practices, putting in extra time alone and fostering strengths of one another while still focusing on getting stronger at weaknesses.

Konkol has big plans for the men’s team at TU and high hopes for the program in the future, but the success and community are not something he can do all on his own. He wants to make sure students know that, “We need your help, we need you at our games, we need your support, and of course we want to be connected with you.”

Post Author: Callie Hummel