Hall of Famer Andrew Kostecka; GU Star Worked for CIA, Commerce

By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 21, 2007

Andrew Kostecka, 85, a Georgetown University Hall of Fame basketball player from the 1940s who later worked for the CIA and the Commerce Department, died Jan. 17 of congestive heart failure at Manor Care nursing home in Bethesda.

Mr. Kostecka, whose collegiate career was interrupted by World War II, was a starter for the 1942-43 team that played for the national championship, although he was in the military by the time of the game. He returned for the 1946-47 season as the school's leading scorer, and one of the best in the nation, averaging 17.8 points per game. The next season, he was team captain and despite injuries was a leading scorer.

Even though he was dismissed from the squad in the middle of the 1947-48 season, he is among the candidates for Georgetown's All-Century Team, to be announced Feb. 10. During a long, losing road trip to the Midwest, Mr. Kostecka played while recovering from an injury. He told the Washington Times-Herald that his coach, Elmer Ripley, "hates my guts and always has. He has his pets and I'm not one of them."

The school promptly dismissed him from the team. Mr. Kostecka, who broke the school's scoring record in his last game, publicly apologized for the incident after his ouster. Contemporaneous news reports, which previously had been uniformly laudatory, described him as "the temperamental Russian" and recounted earlier displays of pique that caused him to be ejected from a game.

At 6 feet 3 inches tall and 200 pounds, he played a year of pro basketball with the Indianapolis Jets and then was recalled to the Army to serve in Korea.

Born in Newark, he enrolled at Georgetown in 1941 and played on a freshman team that lost only one game -- to former pro players who were stationed at a military base in Aberdeen, Md. The next year, he was one of three sophomores and a freshman who were varsity starters.

Mr. Kostecka scored a season high of 22 points against American University and had strong games against Temple, Catholic, Syracuse and Penn State universities. He led the team with a 15-point scoring average until he was called into the Army in February 1943. Future congressman Henry Hyde replaced him in the lineup, and the team went on to defeat DePaul University, with its star George Mikan, to advance to the NCAA finals. Georgetown then lost to Wyoming in the championship game.

In the Army, Mr. Kostecka served as Gen. Douglas MacArthur's Russian interpreter and was among the first group of Americans to enter Nagasaki after the explosion of the atomic bomb over the city.

After the war, Mr. Kostecka returned to Georgetown, played a season and a half and then graduated and played a year of professional ball. The Indianapolis team folded, and Mr. Kostecka served in military intelligence in Korea, reporting on Soviet troop movements from behind the Iron Curtain, his family said. After the Korean War, he worked for the CIA until 1969, when he moved to the Commerce Department.

Mr. Kostecka became the government's leading expert on the franchising industry, writing the department's annual survey on the topic and compiling its handbook. He also wrote "Franchising's Growing Role in the U.S. Economy, 1975-2000" and led trade missions around the world. He retired in 1989.

Survivors include his wife of 48 years, Maria Kostecka of Potomac; two sons, Andrew Kostecka of Germantown and Robert Kostecka of Derwood; and five grandchildren.

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