The 2022 class of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame were (in no particular order) Swin Cash, Larry Costello, Hugh Evans, Manu Ginobili, Tim Hardaway, Del Harris, Lou Hudson, Bob Huggins, George Karl, Radivoje Korac, Theresa Shank-Grentz, Marianne Stanley and Lindsay Whalen. Congratulations the new members and their families. We here at Wisconsin Sports Heroics wanted to give a little extra shine to three members who coached the Milwaukee Bucks during their Hall of Fame careers.
Larry Costello (Bucks Coaching Record: 410-264)
Costello had a very successful playing career in the NBA. He won a championship in ’67 with the Sixers. He was a 6x time NBA All-Star and even made All-NBA second team in ’61. Still though, in Milwaukee he will be most remembered for his time coaching The Bucks. He was the first coach in franchise history. Their first season (1968-1969) was miserable as they went 27-55 but thanks to winning a coin toss against the Phoenix Suns they won the first pick in the ’69 draft and took a player who at the time was known as Lew Alcindor.
Thanks to Alcindor The Bucks improved to 56-26. The 29 game improvement from one year to the next was an NBA record at the time. Nevertheless they would go on to lose to the Knicks in the Eastern Conference Finals in 1970. That offseason The Bucks added another legend in Oscar Robertson and that was the addition that took them over the top. They would win 66 games and would sweep The Baltimore Bullets in the ’71 Finals.
Costello would coach the team to one more finals appearance. In the 1976-1977 season he resigned after a 3-15 start to the season. During his tenure he oversaw an expansion team that became NBA champs and he left with a 61% regular season winning percentage. He would return to Milwaukee to coach the Milwaukee Does of the Women’s Professional Basketball League for part of the 1979-1980 season before fully transitioning to college basketball at Utica College.
Costello passed away December 13th, 2001 after battling cancer. He was presented by his four daughters in a pre recorded video during the ceremony. You can watch that video here.
Del Harris (Bucks Coaching Record 191-154)
His time in Milwaukee was relatively successful with a 55% winning percentage in the regular season. But Harris went into the Hall of Fame not for one specific stint with a team but for his general contribution to the sport. He coached 5 different national teams and was a head coach in the NBA for 14 years. He spent another 13 years as an assistant in the NBA. Harris has dedicated his life to basketball at global level. Even today at 85 years old he is currently the vice president of the Dallas Mavericks g-league affiliate the Texas Legends.
Harris was still recovering having only had back surgery four days earlier and still managed to be present for his enshrinement. You can watch his speech here.
George Karl (Bucks Coaching Record 205-173)
Karl had many successful stints as an NBA head coach (as well as some less successful ones). Most famously he had 7 years in Seattle , 5 in Milwaukee and 9 in Denver. Karl never won a championship as an NBA head coach (though he did win a trophy while coaching Real Madrid in Spain). The closest he ever got was in the 1995-1996 season. The SuperSonics went 64-18. They made the Finals and and met the the Bulls who had gone 72-10. The Bulls and their famous shooting guard got a quick 3-0 lead before closing out the series in 6.
The Bucks under Karl never made the Finals. They did however make it the seventh game of the Eastern Conference Finals. Which was quite the achievement. When Karl joined the Bucks they had failed to even reach the playoffs the previous 7 seasons. The core that lead them to the conference finals would be whittled the following seasons and they would never reach the same heights. When Karl was let go in 2003 with a 54% regular season win percentage and the Bucks would not win a playoff series again till 2019.
George Karl was able to speak at his enshrinement. You can watch that video here.
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