Deb Malewski
Contributing Writer

Joe Costello is a tough coach, in more ways than one. He’s won numerous awards and recognitions over the years and has guided his team to multiple championships and other successes. He recently received his 2,000-career win at Bellevue High School. He has seven successful kids, 12 grandkids, and one more on the way. But he’s also battled four heart attacks, a hit from COVID, and the loss of his wife to cancer.
“I’m being both mom and dad now,” he said, “trying to do the things that she would do for the kids and thinking ‘What would Sandi do?’ when I have to make decisions.
“But something is missing,” Costello said. “It just doesn’t feel the same since my wife died. There’s an empty spot.”
“The most important thing in my life has been to be a father,” Costello said. “But sometimes, I feel like a bad grandpa as I’ve missed out on seeing my grandkids play their games!”
“My world has always revolved around sports. I love everything sports-related,” Costello said, “but I do enjoy cooking a special dinner, concerts, and time with my kids and grandkids.”
Costello grew up in Lansing and attended Lansing Catholic Schools. He attended Central Michigan University and Lansing Community College. He has always been involved in sports, one way or another, as a player, a coach, and even a player/coach. He’s coached the Bellevue Varsity Boys Basketball team for eleven years and his kids all grew up in sports.
He’s had other jobs in the past. He worked intake at the Lansing Police Department Jail for about five years, where he booked and fingerprinted the “guests” there. Working rotating shifts was hard, and he eventually left there to work security at General Motors in Lansing, where he was able to work regular shifts, and retired from there.
Until he was about 50, Costello played semi-pro football. He played with and coached the Lansing Crusaders for ten years. He also played and coached three years for the Jackson Bombers.
“Coaching keeps me busy, and gives me a purpose in life,” Costello explained. “And I enjoy the competitive spirit. I get to interact with young people and influence their lives.”
“I teach them that we win with dignity, and lose with dignity,” Costello added.
“On a team, what matters most is not the strength of the individual players, but the strength of the unit and how they function together,” said Coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots. “That’s what Joe has taught the kids over the years,” said Cindy Gaedert-Gearhart, a Bellevue parent. “Joe was always the first one there Saturday mornings to open and close the gym with several varsity players by his side to help coach the younger youth players. These kids look up to Joe and the varsity boys and couldn’t wait to play for him in the future. One thing you will hear from Joe on the court is ‘focus, focus.’ Bellevue has been blessed to have him as a coach,” Gaedert-Gearhart added.
Another parent, Ed Bartha stated a few quotes he heard Costello say, including “Teams in the area are not used to our full court chaos press” and “What are we running, c’mon guys, focus.”
Kenneth Bartha, a Bellevue senior this year, offered these often heard quotes from coach Costello: “Four corners… last shot,” “Takes no talent to know where you’re going and HUSTLE” and “Adversity reveals character of us all.” Bellevue senior Nick Hayward added “FINISH! You gotta finish,” “If the ball is loose, you better be on the ground getting it” and “Step in… Step in.” Braylon Robbins recounts Coach Costello giving direction every step of the game, such as “Stay in front of him,” then “GET BACK… GET BACK… you gotta get back on defense.”
“My teams rarely lose. In five years, they’ve lost only 12 games,” Costello said. This has brought Bellevue notoriety and much more respect from other coaches and leagues, Costello feels.
“The team is ‘scrappy’,” Costello explains, “and they know that they represent themselves, the school, the team, and the coach.”
“There’s a lot of value in being involved in sports for kids,” Costello pointed out. “They learn discipline, such as being on time for practice. They learn the value of being responsible for more than just themselves. They become part of an organization and learn that it’s important to be part of the team where the individual is not the focus.”
Costello was selected as the 2017, 2018, and the 2019 Battle Creek Enquirer All-Area Basketball Boys Coach of the Year after leading Bellevue to conference championships and a top five state ranking.