ANTIGONISH — Time has been fleeting for a basketball legend and a university president.
But St. Francis Xavier X-Men head coach Steve Konchalski and outgoing university president Kent MacDonald share fond memories of another time when MacDonald studied at St. FX.
MacDonald grew up in New Glasgow and earned an undergraduate degree from St. FX.
He was in his freshman year at St. FX in 1984 and met Konchalski when he became the X-Men’s student therapist.
“It was awesome,” he said. “I couldn’t bounce a basketball if I tried, but it led me to a great experience at the (1985) Regionals at St. FX.”
MacDonald recalled watching a video about the Canadian Olympic men’s basketball team while attending New Glasgow High School. Konchalski was an assistant to head coach Jack Donahue who, like Konchalski, was from New York.
Konchalski became the X-Men’s head coach in 1975 and set a milestone last season by winning his 900th university basketball game. He guided the X-Men to their first national championship in 1993 and helmed their other titles in 2000 and 2001.
Konchalski recently announced he will helm the X-Men until his retirement in 2021, when the X-Men will host the CIS men’s final in Halifax. He sees it as an opportunity as good as he’ll ever have to win another championship.
On top of that, his successor Tyrell Vernon will understudy him over that time, which Konchalski views as a master stroke.
Konchalski views the timing of the X-Men hosting the CIS championship as a strong recruiting tool to build a competitive team.
“I’m totally excited about Tyrell,” he said. “It’s rejuvenated me.”
Meanwhile, Athletic director Leo MacPherson praised MacDonald’s endorsement of the student-athlete model and passion for the school, especially when prospective students and their parents visited the campus.
MacPherson told of a time MacDonald received a cell phone call from prominent Xaverian and former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and put him on hold until after he met such a family.
“He was most excited when athletes achieved academic success,” MacPherson said.
MacDonald was presented with the university’s annual X-Ceptional award this year in tribute to his five-year contribution as president.
St. Francis Xavier X-Men head coach Steve Konchalski stands with outgoing St. FX president Kent MacDonald during the university’s annual athletic awards gala. (Goodwin photo)