LIVERMORE -- Tony Costello, who coached East Bay high school and community college basketball for more than 30 years, died Sunday after he battled pancreatic cancer for over a year. Costello was 57.
Costello was about to enter his eighth season as the men's basketball coach at Las Positas College in Livermore, but was forced to take a leave of absence earlier this month. Costello was also on leave for most of the 2012-13 season but returned to coach the final four games of the year.
"He was very thoughtful, very kind, and an extremely hard worker," Las Positas athletic director Dyan Miller said. "He was always thinking about the student-athletes. He will be sorely missed."
Costello graduated from Amador Valley High in 1974, playing under former legendary Dons coach Skip Mohatt, and later went on to become an assistant coach with Amador Valley boys basketball team. In 1981, he became the head boys basketball coach at Dublin, where he coached for six years.
Costello played under Mohatt for one season, but that was long enough to cast a lasting impression.
"I wanted to coach, and that's something I took from Skip, " Costello said in a 2001 interview with this newspaper. "You have to take what you've learned from him, but you can't duplicate his personality. He was a tremendous teacher so passionate about the game."
From Dublin, Costello spent 17 seasons at Chabot College, including 14 as the head coach.
At Chabot, Costello's teams qualified for the regional playoffs 12 times and won conference championships in 2003 and 2005. Chabot advanced to the state's final eight in 2002 and the Sweet 16 in 1997. Costello's record at Chabot was 250-179, and 15 of his players went played Division I basketball.
Costello was Las Positas' first coach after the school introduced a men's basketball program. His teams went 100-77 in their first six years, reaching the playoffs in the 2007-08, 2010-11, and 2011-12 seasons. The Hawks advanced to the Sweet 16 in 2012.
Costello's younger brother, Tom, the basketball coach at Dublin, posted the news of Tony's death on Facebook early Sunday afternoon.
"He fought harder than any of us are even aware because he never made excuses or complained. EVER," Tom Costello wrote. "He was like a 2nd father to me and my heart is shattered. He dedicated his short life to serve others. As a teacher, a coach, a father, a brother, a husband, a son, a mentor.
"He always seemed to find the right words to help. His focus was never about himself. He was so humble, kind, and giving to anyone he crossed paths with. I chose to teach and coach basketball because of him. I've learned so much and hope to be half the man he was. Even in his final hours he was teaching us life lessons like perseverance, commitment, respect, and FAMILY. He has touched so many lives and built so many relationships. I am humbled to have had Tony in my life."