Jud Heathcote's defining Michigan State moments

The late Jud Heathcote came from humble beginnings out west, but ended up a part of the most definitive moments in Michigan State basketball history.

There were also some not-so-memorable ones.

Heathcote, 90, passed away Monday night in Spokane, Wash. He was born in North Dakota, spent most of his childhood in Washington and coached at MSU from 1976 to 1995. Heathcote also helped groom current head coach Tom Izzo.

Some of Heathcote's noteworthy moments and others that fueled his competitive fire during a 19-year career in East Lansing:

1976 - Heathcote was hired at MSU, replacing the fired Gus Ganakas. His first order of business? The re-recruitment process of Lansing star Earvin "Magic" Johnson, who eventually chose the Spartans over in-state rival Michigan.

1978 - Heathcote and Johnson led the Spartans to a  25-win season, a first-place mark in the Big Ten Conference and an Elite Eight appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Johnson was a nationally heralded freshman.

1979 - Heathcote directed MSU to the NCAA championship, culminated by one of the most famous games in basketball history. Johnson and MSU squared off in the final against Larry Bird and Indiana State in what remains the highest rated college basketball game ever.

1983 - Heathcote named Izzo a part-time assistant coach. Izzo stayed on the staff as an assistant until 1986, the year he left to be an assistant and recruiting coordinator at Tulsa. Izzo's time at Tulsa lasted just one month.

1985 - Heathcote's loyalty was put to the test after star player Scott Skiles received his second drunk driving charge in 14 months. Skiles also pleaded guilty to marijuana possession that year. Heathcote received heavy criticism as he stood by Skiles, suspended him briefly and reinstated him. Skiles turned his life around, played professionally from 1986 to 1997 and was an NBA coach from 1997 to 2016.

►More: Couch: Jud Heathcote was a gem – as real as you thought he was

1986 - Heathcote welcomed Izzo back after Mike Deane, a MSU assistant coach, left to become the head coach at Siena College. This was also the year when Heathcote, his staff and players suffered a controversial loss to Kansas in the NCAA Tournament's Sweet Sixteen. The Skiles-led Spartans had a late 80-78 lead, but fell in the infamous contest known by fans as the "clock game."

1990 - Heathcote named Izzo, MSU's top recruiter, as the program's associate head coach. The Spartans, during its first season at the Breslin Center, also won the Big Ten title outright with a 15-3 conference mark. The program went on that year to finish 28-6 with a Sweet Sixteen appearance. Heathcote's team, led by Steve Smith, lost to Georgia Tech in a game that also had controversial late timekeeping issues. Heathcote was recognized by his peers as the National Association of Basketball Coaches Coach of the Year.

1991 - Heathcote had one of the strangest and most difficult moments of his career when he dismissed player Parish Hickman from the team. Hickman's scholarship was revoked after a 1991 on-campus arrest. He was later acquitted of federal cocaine charges. Two years after Hickman's scholarship was revoked, he alleged a booster paid him to play at MSU. Heathcote and Izzo denied the allegations. Hickman also tried to sue MSU for damages he said were caused when the university took his scholarship. The university said in court documents Hickman was booted from the program because of at least six complaints filed against him from 1988 to 1990.

1993 - Then MSU Athletics Director Merrily Dean Baker recommended a one-year contract extension for Heathcote through the 1994-95 season. She also recommended that Izzo be appointed head coach once Heathcote retired.

1994 - The MSU Board of Trustees accepted Baker's recommendations, before Heathcote's final season as head coach. This was an eventful year because a controversial memo written by Clarence Underwood, then associate athletic director, was leaked to the media. The memo to Peter McPherson, MSU's president, said Underwood should be allowed to tell Heathcote he should retire at the end of the 1993-94 season. Under this scenario, the memo stated that Heathcote should be terminated if he didn't retire.

►More: Iconic MSU basketball coach Jud Heathcote dead at 90

1995 - Heathcote decides to retire after the 1994-95 season. After support from trustees and the administration, Izzo becomes the heir apparent. Heathcote's farewell tour ends with a 22-6 mark and 14-4 mark in the Big Ten. That was good for second place in the conference. Heathcote's 19-year tenure doesn't conclude on a high note. The Spartans, a No. 3 seed, get upset by No. 14 Weber State in the NCAA Tournament's first round.

Contact Eric Lacy at (517) 377-1206 or elacy@lsj.com. Follow him on Twitter @EricLacy.

© 2017 Lansing State Journal


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