500 people attend the hiring of Eric Konkol, beginning of “rebirth” for basketball TU | TU Sports Extra

Eric Konkol, new men’s basketball coach at the University of Tulsa, and his family were welcomed to the Reynolds Center by more than 500 fans, TU spirit teams and the college band’s rendition of “Rock You Like a Hurricane” on Tuesday.

TU President Brad Carson said the hiring of Konkol, 45, to succeed Frank Haith as head coach marks the start of a new era for TU basketball, alluding to campus improvements over the past year.

“The connection of past and future is the very nature of what historians might call a rebirth, linking what was with what can be. We’re taking our best traditions and reshaping them for the future,” Carson said. “This year marks the beginning of that rebirth for the University of Tulsa.

“And today, we’re thrilled to launch a renaissance in Tulsa Golden Hurricane men’s basketball.”

The connection of past and future was a common theme at the conference as Konkol spoke about his past relationship with TU. Konkol, then 24, was on Buzz Peterson’s bench for the 2000-01 season. That year, the Golden Hurricane defeated Alabama 79-60 to win the 2001 National Invitation Tournament Championship.

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“That’s where it all really started for me as a coach,” Konkol said. “It was a transformational time for me. I came here just to try to coach basketball and try to figure out what it was like.

“I left here with an invaluable experience of seeing a university, a special group of players and a community, all intertwined and aligned, to create something special.”

Haith resigned on March 12 after a school-record 14 conference losses and an overall record of 11-20. In eight seasons, Haith has won 138 career games at TU, the second in program history.

In Konkol’s only season at TU, official attendance at the Reynolds Center was 7,586 per game with three houses sold out.

After a record-breaking 2022 season in which the Reynolds Center saw fewer than 3,000 fans per game, TU sporting director Rick Dickson said Konkol’s familiarity with the program was “absolutely” taken into account. account in his hiring.

“And the familiarity (of Konkol) when we were at our peak and knowing what our — not just the Tulsa standard but the TU standard — is when we’re at our peak,” Dickson said. “He was part of it, even for a short time.”

“We will play with a lot of selflessness, looking for the best shot and playing in a way that is fun to watch but also winning. And that’s what it’s all about,” Konkol said. “There’s also a grassroots organic effort to connect with people, and I want to lead that charge.”

While an assistant at Miami from 2011 to 2015, Konkol led the same charge: trying to rectify poor attendance. He took it upon himself to host themed nights at games as Hurricanes attendance grew by more than 1,500 from 2012 to 2013.

“(Konkol) were sort of the boots on the court to create the promotions and marketing that brought the program to life,” Dickson said.

Dickson chose Konkol from about 40 other applicants. In seven seasons at Louisiana Tech, Konkol won 67% of his games. His Bulldogs went 25-8 en route to a third-place finish in the NIT in 2021. He was named American Conference Coach of the Year, among other accolades, following the 2020-21 season. In total, Konkol won more than 20 games during the six seasons at Louisiana Tech.

And he did it, often, with local talent.

“On my Louisiana Tech team last year, 12 of the 14 guys came within five hours of campus. We had five guys from Louisiana, which is the most the program has had in a long time,” Konkol said.

During Haith’s tenure, TU signed an eight-year in-state high school freshman, freshman point guard Anthony Pritchard from Webster High School. Pritchard’s first campaign ended after an injury on February 26 against East Carolina, but not before the Tulsan had started 18 games and led the Golden Hurricane in assists.

“Here we will recruit Oklahoma. We’re going to recruit Texas. We’re going to recruit Arkansas,” Konkol said. “That doesn’t mean that our whole team will be from here. We have to find the right guys…but we’re going to get them starting here and then branch out.

“Our goal is to challenge consistency for championships, get into the NCAA Tournament and move forward.”

Konkol was joined by his wife, Maegan, and sons, Ethan, 13, and Ryan, 10, at the ceremony. Tuesday was Ethan’s 13th birthday. When asked if he hoped to stay at TU long enough to recruit his eldest son, Konkol replied that he would “love” if Ethan was good enough to play TU.

We will play with great selflessness, looking for the best move and playing in a way that is fun to watch, but also winning.

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