Larry Costello elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame

Longtime NBA head coach and former University of Utica men’s basketball head coach Larry Costello has been announced as a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022.

Costello was born in Minoa, Onondaga County on July 2, 1931. He attended East Syracuse-Minoa High School and later played college basketball for Niagara University. After college, Costello was drafted by the Philadelphia Warriors in the second round of the 1954 NBA draft.

Costello spent 12 seasons in the NBA. He was a six-time all-star and won a championship in 1967 with the Philadelphia 76ers before retiring after the 1968 season.

After his playing days were over, Costello turned to coaching. His first professional coaching job was with the Milwaukee Bucks, where he spent nine seasons. While coaching the Bucks, Costello won the NBA championship in 1971 and coached Hall of Famers Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Oscar Robertson.

After her days with the Bucks, Costello coached the Chicago Bulls for one season and then coached the Milwaukee Does of the Women’s Professional Basketball League for one season.

After his stint with the Does, Costello moved into the college ranks and coached Utica College from 1980 to 1987.

Larry Costello (center) and the 1970 Milwaukee Bucks

While at Utica, Costello was part of the team’s transition to a Division I basketball program. The team was Division III for 1980, but jumped to Division for Costello’s second season with the program. in 1981.

“He went from Oscar (Robertson) and Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar) and Bobby Dandridge and John McGlocklin to Andy and Bob and Jim at Utica College, but the focus never changed,” said DJ Carstensen, who played for Costello at Utica College from 1981 to 1985.

Carstensen said that although Costello has NBA accolades, perhaps his most impressive achievement was what he did at Utica. In the school’s first year in Division I, the team finished 4-22. In the 1984-85 season, Costello had the team above .500 with a 15-12 record.

“He recruited guys who all came, had never met before,” Carstensen said. “With not a big budget to work with and I think it was the smallest school in Division I basketball at the time and came out and in four years had a winning record and beat a few teams that have played in the NIT and NCAA Tournament, which when you think about it, is pretty amazing.”

Costello coached Utica until 1987 and left the program with a 64-94 record in Division I.

It was evident from the photographs that Milwaukee Bucks coach Larry Costello was more than just a casual observer during a game against the Atlanta Hawks at the Arena.  And the energetic coach has good reason to be concerned.  His team had to rally from a 10-point deficit to whip the Hawks, 114-92.

Utica would be Costello’s last coaching job in his career before retiring.

Costello died in 2001 and will be recognized posthumously by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Other posthumous inductees this year include Lou Hudson and Radivo Korac. The rest of the class is made up of Manu Ginobili, Tim Hardaway, Bob Higgins, George Karl, Hugh Evans, Lindsay Whalen, Swin Cash, Marianne Stanley, Del Harris and Theresa Shank-Grentz. The induction ceremony will take place at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts on September 9-10, 2022.

Kenny Lacy is a sports reporter for the Observer-Dispatch. Email Kenny Lacy at

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