Steve Costa has been the baseball coach at Warren Easton since 1972, four years after he arrived at the school as a fresh-faced Tulane graduate. Here, he talks about how state’s oldest public high school has changed, his favorite Easton athletes and his “relationship” with Sandra Bullock:
Easton is celebrating its 100th year at this location later this year. Is it true you were there for the groundbreaking?
No. But our principal tells me I’m older than the dirt around here.
What keeps a person at one school for 44 years?
When I came here in ’68, I fell in love with it. I love being around the kids. That’s it.
How has Easton changed, especially since Katrina?
Going charter has made a big difference. We were previously as the mercy of the Orleans Parish (School) Board. Now we have a board that runs us, so we have more autonomy. We don’t have as many students — about 930, as compared to 1,300-1,400 in the past. But the 900 suits us perfectly. We just don’t have enough facilities to handle more.
Easton has always stood for something. To you, what is it?
Every member of our charter board is an Easton alumnus, and they all say that Easton has always educated the working-class kids of New Orleans. We’re not elitist. We’re just normal, working-class people. That’s what our parents are. That’s what our students are. And I think, more than anything, we look at that and we say, “This is who we are and these are the kind of kids we attract.” Now, all of a sudden, the LHSAA says we’re a “select” school. I don’t know why. We don’t select our kids. They fill out an application, and we pick them based on the application. They don’t have to pass any kind of test.
Your girls basketball team is the No. 1 seed going into the 4A playoffs. What does that take and what does it mean?
Our coach, Darius Mimms, has done a fantastic job with the girls. And these girls are still really hungry. The cheerleaders are putting up banners and all year we’ve been pumping them up. No Orleans public school has ever won a girls basketball championship. It would be a tremendous thing for them to be the first.
Most of your players come to you with little or no baseball background. How do you deal with that?
We don’t have junior high baseball, so the only place these kids are exposed to baseball is on the playgrounds or maybe a traveling team. We do have a couple of those kids. I can teach skills and things, but it’s hard to teach baseball mentality to those who haven’t played.
Who are your favorite all-time Easton athletes?
In baseball, Gilbert Lanoix. He went to UNO and then transferred to Southern. He’s drafted by the Dodgers but gets hurt in his first game and then never plays baseball again. Now he’s a nurse. And then I had young man named Corey Worrell. He played quarterback and pitched for me. He went to Southern, too. I’ve had too many to name in football.
Sandra Bullock has been a benefactor to Easton. Are those rumors about the two of you having a thing for each other true?
I got two hugs when she was here in November filming a piece for the People’s Choice (Awards). That was nice. She is so genuine.
So how long are they going let you stay here?
I’m looking at another year. I’ll be 67 in March, and I’ve been here since I was 22. But I still like to get out and throw batting practice. Kids who were here years ago come up to me and say, “You haven’t changed.” So I guess I’ve taken pretty good care of myself.
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