The Game-ChangerYou might wonder what inspired Landry Kosmalski to accept the Swarthmore men’s basketball head coaching job in 2012. After all, Kosmalski was leaving an assistant coaching position at Davidson College, his alma mater and the alma mater of NBA MVP Steph Curry, to inherit a Garnet basketball program that was coming off a 3–22 season and had not made the postseason in nearly 20 years. But where others saw a challenge, Kosmalski saw an opportunity—not only to work at a college that perfectly matches his values but also to revive a program with untapped potential. That potential came to fruition during his fourth season as coach, when the Garnet soared to new heights, advancing to the Centennial Conference playoffs for the first time since 1997, reaching the Centennial championship game, and setting a new program record with 22 wins in a single season. For his efforts, Kosmalski was named Centennial Conference Coach of the Year by his peers. The Texas-raised Kosmalski lives and leads with thoughtfulness and purpose. A young father who was originally attracted to Swarthmore because it offered a perfect work-life balance, he’s known for his interest in the lives of his players on and off the court. He’s also known for his fondness of handwritten notes—which he often delivers to staffers on their birthday and to prospective student-athletes who recently visited campus. Not surprisingly, Kosmalski excels in the small details: Practice plans are scheduled down to the minute with everything accounted for, from snacks on the bus to the angle of screens in a play, and even the color of the coaches’ polo shirts. Oh, about the polo shirts. On the sidelines, Kosmalski forgoes the near-universal suit-and-tie wardrobe of college basketball coaches—he doesn’t want to put himself above his players. “That’s kind of perfect for Swarthmore,” he says, “which is a great fit with my values, too.” Although his coaching tenure started off rocky—the team stumbled to a 7–18 record in his first season—it was all part of the process for Kosmalski, who saw the value of putting egos aside to build a foundation for long-term team success. “We decided as a staff that we were not trying to win games,” he says. “We were going to create a culture.” That culture includes purposely winnowing his already-small recruiting pool of student-athletes to the ones he believes are driven to succeed—at sports and in life. “We are very particular about the attitude, skill set, and toughness we want,” he says. “And then we narrow it down even further to what kind of person would benefit from the Swarthmore experience and fit in with our community.” Following this year’s breakthrough season, the future is bright for Kosmalski and the program—the Garnet will return a majority of its impact players next season. “In the grand scheme of things, we think we can be one of—if not the—best team in the whole country,” he says. “We don’t want to put any restrictions on ourselves: Just because it hasn’t been done here yet doesn’t mean it can’t.” + Listen to Landry talk about this year’s season here.