When I previously interviewed Kyle Koncz last November, he was starting his third season of coaching and teaching at Lake Forest Academy outside of Chicago.
Koncz is now taking the next step, going from a prep school powerhouse to an assistant coach position at one of the top programs in Division III basketball, as he recently joined the staff at Williams College.
This morning I caught Koncz on the phone in transition from Illinois to the Berkshires. A transcript of our phone call can be found after the jump.
Additionally, because the site has been interview-heavy recently, I've added an Interviews category above you can use to peruse these many exclusive conversations.
When we exchanged emails a few weeks ago, you mentioned things were pretty crazy. What was going on and has everything quieted down?
It is getting there. Last time we talked was during the AAU Nationals. I was still in Orlando. We did really well there and had to move our flight back. I actually had to move out of Chicago on the Monday after I got back and I didn't get home until Saturday night.
I packed up my apartment and I've been in Cleveland now for two and a half weeks at my parents' house. I'm moving to Massachusetts on Tuesday.
You're still in Ohio?
I'm still in Ohio. The coach is in Europe with his wife on vacation and he would rather me get to campus when he's on campus so he told me to take a couple weeks and get my stuff situated. I have to do all the bank stuff and all the paperwork you do around moving. It has calmed down a little bit but I haven't gotten to Massachusetts yet. I'm sure it will pick back up when I get there as I figure out my living situation.
You've spent time on the Williams campus so far?
I actually have never been there!
I've heard a lot about it. I know it is a nice campus up in western Massachusetts. I'm not really worried about it. A couple of the teachers I taught with at Lake Forest Academy - one of their wives went there and another played in the NESCAC at Bowdoin, he played hockey and kind of gave me little hints and tips of what to expect.
I gather it is an Ivy-like campus and the school is very much an Ivy-like environment.
It is a high academic environment similar to Princeton. I know it is kind of up in western Mass. so there isn't a big city up there - three hours from Boston and three hours from New York City - but I've seen pictures and the campus is gorgeous. It is right in the Berkshires. Mountains and trails, all that kind of stuff. It is a nice place to live, so I'm excited to get out there soon.
Do you have a sense of how your workload is going to change? I suppose you won't be teaching anymore.
No teaching. It is all basketball. I'm focusing on Williams. It is a great program. It has been a lot of recruiting, watching film and breaking down film. A lot of basketball talk with coaches, which is exciting for me because that is what I'm looking for.
I enjoyed teaching a lot but the more I coach basketball the more I just love doing that kind of stuff. Being able to put all of my effort into coaching basketball and becoming a better coach, that is going to be something I'm looking forward to.
You're going from one sort of basketball power to another on a different level - Williams is one of the top programs in DIII, the national runner-up in 2010, a Final Four team in 2011...
It is exciting. Coaching at Lake Forest for three years, I got better as a coach every single year learning new things at the prep level and high school level. Now you're taking that jump up to college, jumping into what is considered a Top 5 Division III program in the country.
It is going to be interesting to see all the new things that I have to learn in terms of recruiting. It is going to be a lot more intense - breaking down film, team meetings, all the kind of stuff that you do at the high school level but at the college level it is a lot more intensive.
It will be eye-opening at first I'm sure, a lot of stuff coming at me, but the coaching staff they have in place is great. I've already met with the coaches a couple times. They were actually down in Orlando recruiting so I got to meet with them 2-3 times, talk with them about stuff, break down some of their offense, talk about recruiting, all that kind of stuff. I kind of got a little bit of a head start but I am sure it will get more intense when I get there.
Mike Maker is a coach with Ivy experience. He used to be an assistant at Dartmouth from 1991-2002. How aware were each of you of the other before you went for this job?
It is one of those things that just kind of fell in place. Coach Fitzgerald [Williams alum and former Princeton / current Denver Director of Basketball Operations John Fitzgerald - JS] actually texted me this summer when a coach at Williams left for a assistant position at Boston University. He said "the Williams job is open, do you want to go for it?" I said definitely. He gave me Coach Maker's number.
Coach Maker was in Chicago recruiting at a gym probably about 15 minutes from where I live. I went there for I guess an informal interview. We sat there and watched kids talking for an hour and an hour of a half about basketball, about my life and my career at Princeton, all that kind of stuff. It went really well and about a week later I got the job offer.
I knew of him because being a "basketball guy" I've known Williams was a very good school and a very good program. I was aware of him and their program. I've only kind of talked to him one other time a couple years ago, but I've never really discussed job opportunities with him, so this was a good thing.
When you were down in Orlando with Team NLP, you made it to the 16U AAU Finals. I understand the team went farther than most expected. Disappointing to lose in the final by three, but a good experience overall?
It was a tremendous experience for me as a coach and our kids. We've had good years in AAU but we've never had any success like that. The big 6'8" kid [14 year old Evan Boudreaux - JS] who is going to be a freshman in high school, it was the first tournament he'd ever played with us.
Him being on the team. He's a talented kid and he set our rotations in place, giving us an actual "5" who could play center. That moved our "5" to a "4" and our "4" to a "3." We started playing really well and had a big guy that could control the paint, block shots and get rebounds. We could push the ball in transition a little bit and the guys really started playing really well. After our first three games, which we won pretty handily, the kids got some confidence and we got some momentum going.
As a coach it was a good experience. Yeah, it is AAU but it is that tournament situation where you have meetings with your team. We were breaking down film. We were getting all into it. It was a good experience for me to grow and be in that tournament environment. I've never really had that experience before. Being in the national championship, being on ESPN3 and being mic'd up on the sidelines, it was a lot of fun.
We would like to win. We had an opportunity to win. It was a good game and it was a good team we were playing. It was definitely exciting.
I enjoyed seeing you on the sidelines. Good luck getting out to Massachusetts and working at Williams.
Thanks so much.