Larry Costello, Bucks First Head Coach, Dies at Age 70
Larry Costello, who guided the Milwaukee Bucks to the NBA Championship in
1971, passed away on Tuesday near Fort Myers, Fl., after battling cancer for
more than a year. He was 70 years old.
Costello, a six-time NBA All-Star during 12 seasons as a player with the
Philadelphia Warriors, Syracuse Nationals and Philadelphia 76ers, retired in
1968. He was named head coach of the expansion Bucks on April 3, 1968, a
position he held for nine seasons
With the Hall-of-Fame tandem of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson, he
led the Bucks to a 66-16 record in 1970-71, his third season with the club.
In the 1971 playoffs, the Bucks won 12 of 14 playoff games, sweeping past
the Baltimore Bullets in the NBA Finals for their World Championship. In so
doing, the Bucks became the fastest expansion team in any sport to hoist a
"Larry Costello established a foundation for the franchise that enabled it
to become one of the most successful expansion teams in any sport,”
remembered John Steinmiller, the Bucks Vice President - Business Operations,
who joined the Bucks front office staff during the championship season.
“Larry's work ethic, dedication to the integrity of the game and love for
Bucks fans in Milwaukee and throughout Wisconsin helped early to establish
Bucks basketball in this community.
“Larry pioneered many new coaching approaches and techniques. His legacy is
Milwaukee's only NBA Championship, and an indelible place in our state's
history. He will be missed."
During his tenure as the Bucks mentor, Costello accrued a record of 410-264
in the regular season, as well as an impressive 37-23 record - and two NBA
Finals appearances - in the postseason. His all-time coaching record of
430-300, which includes a one-year tenure (1978-79) with the Chicago Bulls,
gives him a winning percentage of .589, a mark exceeded by only 11 coaches
in NBA history.
Costello’s coaching trademark was a gruff, direct approach that masked the
goodness of the man.
“Larry was a very dedicated, direct coach who was instrumental in my
development as a ball player,” remembers Jon McGlocklin, who played eight
seasons under Costello. “It was under Larry that I played my best
“Over the years, I got to know him personally, and have kept in touch with
him and his family. At heart, under that exterior, he was a very honest man
and a very good man who attacked his job with purity and with zeal. This is
a sad day.”
Costello entered the NBA as a second-round draft pick of the
Philadelphia Warriors in 1954. In his 12 seasons, he averaged 12.2 points
and 3.8 assists and twice led the NBA in free throw percentage. He was a
member of the 1966-67 Philadelphia 76ers team that won an NBA-record 68
games (since broken) and won the NBA Championship.
Born July 2, 1931, in Minoa, N.Y., Costello is survived by his wife
Barbara and daughters Lesley, Pamela, Colleen and Amy. Memorial services
will be held in Fort Myers and in Minoa. The family has asked that in lieu
of flowers, well-wishers make donations to the MACC Fund in Costello’s name.
1200 N. Mayfair Rd., Suite 265
Milwaukee, WI 53226