Larry Costello

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Niagara University and NBA Player, Coach

During the glory years of Little Three basketball, the squads of Canisius, Niagara and Saint Bonaventure always featured several standout players who fueled the intense rivalry among the schools and their fans. During the early 1950s, Larry Costello was the catalyst of teams which excelled both in Little Three action and outside that arena.

From the start, Costello was a star at Niagara. In 1950, he sparked the freshman Purple Eagles to an undefeated 23-0 season. A year later, he joined the varsity, as a starter at guard, and led the team in scoring. Known for his blistering speed and exceptional hands, he led Coach Tap Gallagher’s Eagles to the National Invitational Tournament the following two seasons. Costello left Niagara as the Eagles all-time leading scorer with 1,275 points.

The tenacity which Larry displayed at Niagara served him well in the more physical professional game. Costello played for 12 years in the NBA with the Syracuse Nationals and the Philadelphia 76ers, and was a member of the 76ers 1967 NBA championship team. As a player, Costello compiled 8,622 points in 706 games.

In 1968, Larry was appointed first head coach of the new Milwaukee NBA franchise. Costello the taskmaster brought the expansion team to contention quickly, and in 1970-71, the Bucks won the NBA title with only the second finals sweep in league annals. While that team featured veteran Oscar Robertson and a young Lew Alcindor, the championship was equally the result of Costello’s use of his bench and extraction of the maximum contributions of every man on the team. Costello coached the Bucks with distinction for 8 years and compiled a record of 410 wins and 254 losses (.617). The Bucks made one other appearance in the NBA finals losing to the Boston Celtics in seven games in 1973-74.

Larry was a highly demanding coach; his style featured thick playbooks and meticulous preparation. An innovator as well, Costello was one the first NBA coaches to use a full-time bench assistant, and to scout future opponents.

While not the first Little Three product honored by the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame, few of the others bring to the Hall the depth and breadth of experience in the game compiled by the latest inductee, Larry Costello.