Lasting Memories

Tony J. Costello
April 29, 1956-Aug. 25, 2013
Pleasanton, California

Tony J. Costello, who in more than 30 years of coaching, teaching and mentoring inspired hundreds of collegiate and high-school basketball players to better lives, died Aug. 25, 2013, after a valiant year-long battle with cancer. He was 57.

Tony, the men's head basketball coach at Las Positas College, and Kinesiology and physical education instructor there, was surrounded by loving family members at the time of his passing, a fitting tribute to a person who valued loyalty, commitment and family in both his life and his work. The oldest of eight children born to Joan and Tony Costello Sr. of Pleasanton, Tony carried those values through his life and made them the cornerstones of an overwhelmingly successful career.

In more than three decades as a coach, Tony influenced hundreds of young athletes to deliver superior effort, strive for greatness, and reach higher levels of performance. As a community college coach, both at Chabot College and Las Positas, he shepherded scores of players on to four-year institutions, many of them attaining the athletic scholarships that had eluded them as they left high school.

Along the way, Tony was honored multiple times as Coach of the Year, his teams winning at consistently high levels. He left Chabot with a 250-179 record in 14 seasons as head coach, then took over a newly-created Las Positas program and added 100 victories in his first six years.

Tony was born in 1956 in Philadelphia, PA, and grew up in Lancaster, PA and Hagerstown, MD before moving with his family to Pleasanton in 1973, toward the end of his junior year of high school. He went on to make the Amador Valley High School varsity team as a senior, contributing to an undefeated league champion while playing for legendary Amador head coach Skip Mohatt.

Tony became a head basketball coach at age 23, taking over the program at Dublin High School (his youngest brother, Tom Costello, is currently the Dublin head coach). After a stop at Justin-Siena High in Napa, he arrived at Chabot as an assistant to another renowned head coach, Rich Botelho. Three years later, Tony succeeded Botelho at the helm of the program.

Tony’s tenure coincided with some of the most successful basketball campaigns in Chabot’s history. His teams qualified for the regional playoffs 12 times, won two conference championships, and reached the Sweet 16 of the state community-college tournament three times. Along the way, he sent dozens of players on to four-year institutions, including 15 who went from Chabot to Division I assignments and another 33 who played either at Division II or NAIA.

Tony was known by his players for his willingness to challenge them and for his compassionate dedication to their needs. It was routine to find him trying to arrange for a player to find decent living quarters or basketball shoes that fit, and he often arrived at Costello family gatherings with one or more of his players in tow – especially at the holidays, when many of them were far from home.

Tony was known to go to great lengths to find good study environments for his players; his 1997 Chabot team won the State Scholar Team Award with an overall Grade Point Average of 3.3. Tony was president of the California Community College Men’s Basketball Coaches Association from 2003 to 2005.

At Las Positas, Tony was present for the birth of a program. Employing the same coaching techniques, and using his favored up-tempo offensive style whenever possible, he led the Hawks to success almost immediately. His teams reached the playoffs three times and advanced to the Sweet 16 in 2012.

Tony’s family meant everything to him, and rallied to his support repeatedly over the past year. In keeping with the modesty and self-deprecation that characterized his career and life, he often downplayed the effects of his treatments to fight pancreatic cancer. Even in the final weeks of his life, visitors remarked that he appeared fitter than he had in months. He showed up for work at Las Positas six days before his passing.

Tony is survived by his loving wife Liane Genoni and their children Kelsey and Aaron Costello, Becca and Kyle Genoni of Pleasanton; parents Joan and Tony Costello Sr. of Pleasanton; brother Ed and Shannon Costello of Pleasanton; sister Colleen Costello-Kreidler and Mark of Davis; sister Mary Strong and Jason of Brentwood; brother Michael Costello and Cheryl of Pleasanton; brother John Costello and Sylvia of Dublin; brother Phil Costello and Mandy of Livermore; brother Tom Costello and Jennifer of Pleasanton; and the Alsterlind and Costello extended families.

A Memorial Mass for Tony will be held on Thursday, Aug. 29, at 10:30 a.m. at St. Augustine Catholic Church in Pleasanton. A public celebration of his life is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31, at the Las Positas College sports complex.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Tony Costello Scholarship, c/o Las Positas College, 3000 Campus Hill Dr., Livermore (indicate Tony Costello Scholarship in check memo), or to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (pancan.org).

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From Jason Bell
Oct. 7, 2013

I had the privilege of not only being a member of Coach Costello's team at Chabot College, but I had the greater privilege of knowing Tony, off the court. You'd search your entire life looking for a single soul on this planet who had anything negative to say about Tony as a Coach or Tony as the down to Earth man who would help anyone before thinking of himself. When I think of Tony, the Coach and the Man, I think of an old quote from Gandhi in the early part of the 20th century, “The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others.” It's as if Gandhi looked into the future and was commenting on Coach Costello, knowing he would begin his services to others in his early 20's, when most that age are out fooling around -- looking out for no one but themselves. Luckily for us who knew Tony the Coach and Tony the Man, I am positive we all have numerous stories or conversations we can recall from either an intensely satisfying 3 hour practice, endless sprints on the track, drills in the pool and most importantly, words of advice and encouragement that would serve to far outweigh the skills we learned from a pure basketball perspective. Anyone who lives in this area or was associated with basketball knows that Coach was one of the well known Costello family members. In this area, they are probably the name most think of when they associate a name to local basketball. I can't speak for all of the family, but I know Coach Tom, had him as a Coach both at AVHS and at Chabot during my short time there. It's easy to see the impact Tony had on his brother and Tom is no doubt going to continue the "Coach Costello" crown for many years to come. Plus, I still remember my Senior yeah at AVHS and we were playing Foothill for the first time at their gym. How much of a basketball family are the Costello's? Let's just say my sole thought going into that game was to shut down this little scrawny Freshman named E.J. Costello. Did I succeed? I honestly don't remember (probably not then!). In true Costello form, E.J. went on to be a 4 year varsity starter and break the EBAL scoring record. As fate would have it, where did he end up playing immediately out of high school? Yep, with Uncle & Coach Costello, continuing on to a great college career. I can only image how happy Coach Costello must have been of his Nephew and if you asked E.J., he would no doubt tell you that his Uncle had a HUGE impact on his basketball success. You'll be missed Coach and I am sorry I was out of the country when I learned of your passing. I'll always have you in my heart and I'll carry the advice you gave me to my grave -- and forget the basketball advice, I'm talking about the life advice a man like you gives to a 18-19 year old who was trying to find his way. See you on the other side Coach, Bell