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Kyle Koncz interview.

Kyle Koncz was one of my favorite Tiger players of the 2000s. Exceptionally crafty but rarely flashy and constantly doing near-imperceptible things away from the basketball on both offense and defense that helped make his teammates better, it is not much of a surprise Koncz has transitioned into coaching since his 2008 graduation from Princeton.

Now an assistant coach at Lake Forest Academy located 35 miles north of downtown Chicago, Koncz - who is fifth all-time in made three pointers as a Tiger with 156 - had a lot more to say responding to my Q&A via email than he ever did in a postgame press conference after Princeton played.

My questions and his answers follow this introduction.

For the last two+ years you've been working at Lake Forest Academy. Tell me about your job and its responsibilities.

This is the start of my third year at LFA, and my responsibilities have changed every year since I have been here. My first year I started out as a teaching intern to gain some experience teaching in the classroom, and also coached three sports (Assistant Cross Country, Assistant Basketball, and JV Volleyball Head Coach).

In year two, I became a full time faculty member, which at a boarding school means you teach four classes, coach two seasons of sports, and have residential duty. I teach our Jr./Sr. elective Psychology course, which basically is an intro class to the study of psychology, and also teach the Freshman Seminar course, which acts as the health course and covers topics such as study skills, social skills, and health information.

This year, I was named the Co-Director of Student Activities which plans weekend activities around the Chicagoland area for our boarding and day students to take part in. I also am in charge of the House Cup which pits four different houses against each other in a variety of competition throughout the year. It's pretty much like Harry Potter I am told, but I never read the books so I wouldn't know for sure.

On top of that I also have residential duty during the week and weekends, were I act as a parent, or in my case a big brother, to many of the boarding students. I wear a lot of hats and it is a really busy schedule, but it keeps me busy so I can't complain.

What's the average day like for a "Co-Director of Student Activities, Seminar Instructor, and History Instructor" who is also an assistant basketball coach?

As you probably saw with the first question my days are extremely busy.

Usually I wake up early to get a workout in, as LFA recently finished construction on a great athletic addition which holds a brand new weight room and renovated pool area. Most of the time during the day is spent preparing for classes, grading papers, or thinking of activities for the upcoming weekend.

During the season I spend at least thirty minutes to an hour during our break periods talking with the Head Coach, Matt Vaughn, about our practice plan, observations, goals for the week, upcoming opponents etc. The afternoon is practice time for about two hours a day, and then if I don't have residential duty that night I can finally relax and watch some NBA or College basketball and unwind thinking about how that day's practice went.

During the off season instead of practice I usually put our guys through some type of workout two or three times during the week and once on weekends, plus in the fall we have plenty of college coaches coming in to see our guys playing in open gym. Sometimes it is crazy, but luckily I learned how to be organized and manage my time pretty well during college.

To my understanding LFA is a pretty big basketball power north of Chicago. Can you talk about the level of competition and some of the players that have been sent to DI schools since you arrived?

Within about the last eight years the Lake Forest Academy basketball program has really improved. As we have become better known in the area we have also really picked up the level of competition that we play. We are an associate member of the Illinois Athletic Association, which means we can't play in the state tournament, but we can play against all the high schools in the state. We also recently dropped out of our conference which has opened up our schedule and allowed us pick up some games against very competitive programs around the state and country.

Not being able to compete in the state tournament we have to come up with different ways to motivate our players to get better every day, and one of those ways is building a schedule that challenges our guys to get better everyday.

Our schedule includes both suburban and city teams. This year we open with a tournament that features three of the best public high schools teams in the northern Chicago area (Warren High School, Waukegan High School, North Chicago High School). This always provides a great challenge being a school of 400 students (200 boys) and competing against teams from high schools with 3,000 to 5,000 students. We have played against great teams from both the Chicago Public League (Chicago Marshall, Crane High School, Chicago Orr High School) and Chicago Catholic League (St. Ritas, Providence St. Mels, St. Ignatius, Chicago De La Salle). We also have traveled to a couple prep school tournaments where we have faced some of the better prep schools in the Midwest (La Lamurie, Culver Academies, Bhrem Prep) and also in the country (MCI, South Kent School, Humble Life Christian Academy). It really is a great schedule for our kids every year, and provides them with a very competitive schedule with teams that have very different playing styles.

I also have been very lucky that in two years and now starting the third have been able to work with a number of D1 and D3 players. My first year we sent David Smith to Drake University where he is now a redshirt freshman point guard who should be competing for playing time. We also sent Angus Brandt to Oregon State who saw plenty of time as a freshman and hopefully will be a good contributor this season. We also had one of our players walk on at Duke University, and actually was a part of the National Championship Team last year.

My second year we sent one of players to St. Norbert College in Wisconsin, a top 20 DIII program. We also sent one of our players who came to us during his Jr. year from Senegal to Gulf Shores Community College as he works towards D1 eligibility, and I am confident he will be at a D1 program in two years. This year we have a younger team but our senior point guard has committed to Rice University, and we have one of the top juniors and sophomores in the area and state.

Angus Brandt is now a sophomore at Oregon State. How was it working with Craig Robinson on Angus' recruitment? Had you met Coach Robinson while at Princeton (besides playing against his Brown teams)?

Other than playing against Coach Robinson's teams when he was at Brown, I met him and talked to him during Reunions my senior year. It just so happened that one of the assistant coaches Coach Robinson hired was the assistant here at LFA before me [Nate Pomeday - JS], so I had a nice conversation about the school and the program being that he knew a little about it before I took the job.

The recruiting period with Angus went really well. He came for a school visit and we all sat down and talked about his expectations and goals for the program at Oregon State, we talked a little about the Princeton Philosophy, and he let Angus know that I was a decent player which gave me some coaching credibility. I think it was really beneficial for Angus being able to ask questions and bounce of ideas of what he was thinking during his recruitment because he really came from under the radar to a national prospect very quickly. The other great part for Angus was once he committed I was able to help him develop the skill set that he would need to have at the next level.

Has being an assistant coach for a prep school changed any of your perspectives that you developed when you were being recruited out of high school?

Being a prep coach I have really become more aware of the pressures our players put on themselves to perform exceptionally well when coaches are watching. Getting our kids to understand that coaches will know how good you if you go out and do what you can do. Don't always try to make the spectacular play, just do you and don't try to "outperform" yourself.

As a coach you become more aware of how these things can affect performance of high school kids. Also our kids get so wrapped up in basketball and recruiting at times they forget they still actually are high school students. Getting them to understand the importance of academics, realizing coaches are looking for more than just a basketball player but a great person. It's tough for a high school kid who puts so much time into the basketball and identifies himself as a basketball player to know there is more that coaches want to see.

Our school is very tough academically and does a good job of challenging our players and getting them to see the important things outside of game. I have enjoyed being able to work at a situation that teaches values and gets our players to know they are student-athletes, similar to experience that I had at Princeton.

How do you also find time for work with Next Level Performance? What's your work like there?

Last spring and summer was my first year with Next Level Performance, an AAU program run by former Chicago Bulls player Dickey Simpkins. Luckily I do not have to coach a sport in the spring for LFA which gives me some extra time. Dickey is also the other assistant coach on our staff at LFA, and we have developed a really good relationship over the three years I have been at LFA. Last year I was an assistant to Dickey with his top U17 team, and also was the head coach for his second level U17.

I traveled around during the spring and summer and really got to gain experience with the AAU circuit. It was also a great experience being a head coach as all of my LFA coaching experience is being an assistant. I also had my first heartbreaking loss at AAU nationals when we lost by one in the 7/10th place game on a three quarter court shot as time expired after we missed the front end of a one on one. That was a terrible feeling, and made for a long plane ride home.

Has this experience changed your professional goals in any way? Do you still see yourself coaching down the line or has your interest in other areas of education grown through working at Lake Forest?

I enjoy working with students at the high school level. There is a lot they can learn and they are a joy to be around. I think that really applies to kids I coach. In terms of the skill set they need to be successful at the next level they all need to get better. In terms of just understanding how much work they have to put in on everything, whether its dribbling, passing, making lay-up, shooting, defensive principles, etc. I really enjoy not only helping them understand that, but also helping them actually become better in those areas.

We met with the Lake Forest College coaches last year and we asked them what is the one thing you wish your players had a better grasp of and they said understanding what it means to workout. That has been one thing I have really stressed to our kids that if you actually want to become a better player you have to work at it, it's not just going to happen or be given to you. Practicing lay-ups and dribbling isn't just a thing first and second graders work on, it is something you should always be working on.

Saying all that, I do see myself at some point coaching college basketball. I just enjoy coaching a lot, I guess I have the itch for it. I am just looking for the right spot to start at and the right opportunity. I still feel I have a lot to learn, and I try to become a better coach each time I am on the court. If I can do that I feel pretty confident that I can and will make the jump at some point.

How closely do you follow Princeton basketball? I know your folks still get to a surprising number of games!

Very close. I try to talk or text Coach Johnson once a month or so just letting him know how things are going and such. I still talk to the guys left on the team that I played with, and I talk daily or weekly with a bunch of the guys I played with. It was such a huge part of my life for four years and always will be. I'm excited to see how this season unfolds.

I have been able to go to at least one game a year since I graduated, and my parents have also made the trip a few more times. It is a special program, and the more I coach and listen to what I say to my players every day the more I understand how much of an influence the program had on me.

Thanks for your time, Kyle and best of luck at Lake Forest this season.

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