When Eric Konkol was announced as the 18th head coach of Bulldog Basketball on May 18, 2015, he said during the introductory press conference that he wanted to continue the standard of excellence that had been built over the last few years.
And that he did by leading LA Tech to a 23-10 overall record, the most victories by a first-year head coach in program history. As a result, he was named a finalist for the 2016 Joe B. Hall Award which is presented annually to the top first-year coach in Division I college basketball.
The Bulldogs had several highlight wins during the 2015-16 season, defeating eight teams who advanced to the postseason (most since 1989) and besting seven teams who posted 20+ victories (most since 1991).
Of those was a win in non-conference play at Ohio State, the program’s first over a Big Ten school in 30 years. More came during Conference USA action as LA Tech was one of only two teams in the league to beat the regular season champions UAB and the tournament champions Middle Tennessee.
The ‘Dogs were picked preseason to finish fifth but ended up in a tie for third in the league to help earn the program’s fourth straight postseason appearance which came in the inaugural Vegas16 Tournament.
The team also continued their dominance at home, claiming a 16-1 record inside the Thomas Assembly Center.
Konkol came to Ruston having spent the previous four seasons on the staff of Miami's head coach Jim Larranaga. Prior to that, he was with Larranaga for seven years at George Mason assisting in all aspects including recruiting, practices, individual player workouts and game preparation.
Known as the team's offensive coordinator, he aided the 2014-15 Hurricanes team to a 25-13 record, the second most wins in program history, and an appearance in the National Invitation Tournament Championship game.
Miami snapped two impressive winning streaks along the way, defeating eventual national champion Duke, 90-74, at Cameron Indoor Stadium, ending the Blue Devils' 41-game home winning streak which was the longest active streak in Division I at the time.
The Canes also defeated then-No. 8/7 Florida in a non-conference battle which snapped the Gators' 33-game home winning streak was the third longest in the country.
In his third season at Miami, Konkol and the Canes returned no starters from the previous season, but the team still posted its seventh-straight winning season with a 17-16 overall record while ranking No. 2 in field goal defense and No. 3 in scoring defense in the ACC, good enough for No. 11 and No. 39 nationally.
The program saw several firsts in his second season, including the Canes ACC regular season and tournament championships, a No. 2 ranking in the national polls and 29 total victories with 15 league wins. Miami matched program bests in earning a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament and playing in the Sweet 16.
Konkol helped lead Miami that season to four 20+ point wins over ACC opponents, including a 27-point rout of No. 1 Duke and a 26-point victory against North Carolina. Miami was the first team to beat Duke and UNC by 25+ points since the start of ACC play in 1953 and the Canes defeated three teams in the Top 20 for the first time since joining the ACC in 2004-05.
Konkol worked daily with ACC and Lute Olson National Player of the Year and All-American Shane Larkin, who left UM after his sophomore season to enter the 2013 NBA Draft. Larkin was a finalist for the Bob Cousy, Naismith and John R. Wooden awards and named the ACC tournament MVP. Konkol also improved the games of ACC Defensive Player of the Year Durand Scott and All-ACC performer Kenny Kadji, as well as ACC All-tournament players Julian Gamble and Trey McKinney Jones.
All six seniors on the Sweet 16 team earned academic degrees from the University of Miami and one player was listed on the All-ACC Academic Team.
In Konkol's first year in Coral Gables, UM teetered on the edge of The Dance bubble, then went 1-1 in the ACC Tournament and ended up in the NIT, defeating Valparaiso, but falling to Minnesota, the eventual NIT Championship runner-up.
Konkol previously worked from 2002 through 2005 and 2007 through 2011 at George Mason with Larranaga. In the interim, he spent two years coaching at national power Hopkins High School in Minnesota under Ken Novak, Jr. - who was named 2011 ESPN RISE National Boy's Basketball Coach of the Year - and had a short stint on the coaching staff at North Dakota State.
He helped guide the Patriots to four-straight postseason appearances for the first time in Mason history - including NCAA berths in 2008 and 2011. In 2011, the team defeated Villanova to advance to the third round of the NCAA Tournament, earned a regular season CAA title and posted a school record-tying 27 wins.
In addition, Konkol was responsible for coordinating Mason's schedule, which was pivotal to the Patriots earning just their second at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament in 2011 - and just the fifth at-large invitation for a CAA squad.
He served as Mason's scouting director from 2002-05 and helped recruit the top non-BCS recruiting class in 2009 according to ESPN.com. Additionally, he monitored the academic progress of the men's basketball student-athletes, graduating 20 of 22 student-athletes who completed their eligibility - with two more students set to graduate in May 2011. In both 2009 and 2010, the program was recognized by the NCAA with an Academic Progress Rate in the nation's top 10 percent.
Konkol previously worked on Buzz Peterson's staff as a student assistant for NIT champion Tulsa in 2000-01 and as a graduate administrative assistant at Tennessee in 2001-02, earning a master's degree in sport management.
A native of Amherst, Wis., Konkol is a 2000 graduate of the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire with a bachelor's degree in kinesiology, with an emphasis in exercise management. He played three seasons of basketball for the Division III program - advancing to the national championship game in 2000. He received the team's Inspiration Award after his junior and senior seasons with the Blugolds, and was an honorary captain as a senior.
He spent his first two years, including one redshirt season, at the University of Wisconsin at Platteville playing for current Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan who led the Badgers this past season to the NCAA Championship game.
Konkol and his wife Meagan, have two sons, Ethan and Ryan.