By Janee Law
Richard Castellano’s 38-year run as head coach of the Northport High School girls basketball team has led to a total of 10 county championships, including six straight from 1989-1994 and three straight from 2004-2006 – the other came in 1986.
Looking back at his run, which is ongoing, what stands out is not what he’s done, but what his players have done, Castellano said.
“I’ve gotten too much credit for stuff we’ve done. It really comes down to the kids, who’ve done it all,” Castellano, of Selden, said. “I’ve got girls who are really dedicated to winning and dedicated to getting better, but the coach gets too much credit I think.”
Castellano recently got some more credit as he was informed he’ll be inducted into the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame next month, with the ceremony set for July 26 in upstate Clayton.
Upon hearing the news, Castellano said, he was surprised and humbled.
A 1969 graduate of Deer Park High School, Castellano went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in history from St. John’s University, and a master’s in secondary teaching from Stony Brook University.
After college, he went back to his hometown to teach for three years within the Deer Park School District. He made the switch to the Northport-East Northport School District in 1976, and taught math within it for 34 years before retiring in 2011.
He started his coaching career in Northport with football and volleyball — and is also the high school’s junior varsity baseball coach today.
It was in 1979 when he first took the lead of the Northport girls basketball squad. Since then, he’s racked up 613 wins, 21 league titles, 10 Suffolk championships, five Long Island championships and three appearances in the state semifinals.
Being a successful basketball coach starts with having good players who are easily coached, Castellano said.
“I couldn’t have done it myself; having the girls that are willing to listen and to learn and work together is all very important,” he said. “I’ve been blessed with kids who have bought into what I’ve taught. I think that’s probably the key to success.”
Throughout the years, Castellano has earned many accolades, including induction to both the Basketball Coaches Association of New York Hall of Fame and Suffolk County Sports Hall of Fame in 2009. He was honored as BCANY Section Coach of the Year for the 2005-2006 season.
In addition to coaching, Castellano takes pride in his community. He created the Suffolk County Coaches vs. Cancer/Score for a Cure Fundraiser, which now has a place in 95 percent of schools across Suffolk. Through his 22 years as president of Suffolk County Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, Castellano has awarded over $250,000 to basketball players for camps and college scholarships.
And he doesn’t currently have any plans to stop. Castellano said he’ll coach for as long as the district allows it, adding that he’s ready to welcome the next generation of Tigers athletes.