On an evening filled with laughter, tears and heartfelt remembrances, Costello was posthumously inducted into the Chabot College Athletics Hall of Fame during a moving ceremony on Jan. 8. The honor was bestowed less than five months after Costello, a longtime Pleasanton resident and Amador Valley High basketball player and graduate, died in August of pancreatic cancer at age 57.
Fittingly, Costello's induction was announced at halftime of a traditional-rivalry game between Chabot College and Las Positas College, the two schools at which he coached for more than two decades. Costello sent dozens of basketball players from both schools on to scholarships at four-year universities, inspiring both individual and team successes along the way.
"Something more important than winning took place on this special night," Jeff Drouin, the athletic director at Chabot, said in an email about Costello's induction. "We honored a lost colleague, who spent nearly 25 years of his life dedicated to student-athletes and basketball at both campuses."
Among those present at the Jan. 8 ceremony were Costello's wife, Liane Genoni; his children Kelsey and Aaron Costello and Kyle Genoni; his parents, Anthony and Joan Costello of Pleasanton; his brothers and sisters, and dozens of members of the Costello and Genoni's extended family.
The induction also was attended by several members of the Chabot Community College District board of trustees, members of Chabot's athletics and basketball staff, fellow coaches and, in an appropriate tribute, a fellow member of the Chabot Athletics Hall of Fame: Tony's nephew, E.J. Costello, the former Foothill High star who went on to play for his uncle at Chabot.
Accepting the induction plaque from Athletic Director Drouin on behalf of the Costello family was Tom Costello, Tony's youngest of seven siblings and a fellow coach. Tom Costello, a former Amador Valley High star who also played for Tony at Chabot, is the head coach at Dublin High School.
"A brother coach-and-player combo seemed kind of weird at first, but it was during that time I could witness first-hand what a man of character truly looks like," Tom Costello said. "He taught us (players) so many life lessons without even knowing and with such humility. It was just Tony's way of doing things. He treated everyone with respect.
"Whether you were a starter, the last guy coming off the bench, a fellow colleague here at school, or a parent, you always got Tony's best," he continued. "He always made time for you. He was a true teacher in every sense of the word. He didn't just tell us how to act, but he showed us how to act. People, not just players, mattered to him most."
In 14 years at Chabot beginning in 1992, Tony Costello's teams piled up 250 victories, qualified 12 times for the community college playoffs, and reached the Sweet 16 in the state tournament on three occasions. Moving on to Las Positas and starting the basketball program from scratch in 2005, Costello added another 100 victories in his first six years on campus. Las Positas reached the state tourney's Sweet 16 for the first time in its history in 2012.
But Costello was equally revered for his dedicated service to his players and the schools' athletics programs, each of which received the benefit of his abundant energy. Wrangling living quarters for transfers, finding part-time jobs for players, even locating the right size pair of donated shoes for a big-footed center -- all were routine parts of Costello's approach to his job.
As friends and colleagues recalled, Costello was passionate about his players' educations, and he often went to great lengths to find or create a study environment that could work with their schedules. His 1997 Chabot team won the State Scholar Award with a cumulative overall grade point average of 3.3.
Held in high regard by his coaching peers, Costello was named president of the California Community College Men's Basketball Coaches Association, a position he held from 2003 to 2005.
The induction ceremony also served as a money-raiser for the Coach Tony Costello Scholarship at Las Positas College, with Chabot's athletic department donating all of the evening's gate proceeds to the fund. The final tally was well above the $1,500 that Drouin had set as a goal.
"It goes to prove that when it comes to honoring someone who was so dedicated to our students' futures, we put our differences aside and come together in these moments," Drouin said. "I am sincerely grateful."