Jud Heathcote, who coached a Magic Johnson-led Michigan State team to the 1979 national championship, died Monday in Spokane, Washington, Michigan State officials announced Monday night.

Heathcote was 90.

“The basketball world is a sadder place today with the passing of Jud Heathcote,” said Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, a Hall of Famer who worked under Heathcote from 1983 until replacing him as Michigan State’s coach in 1995. “No one cared more about the welfare of the game than Jud. He was a coach’s coach and a mentor to many. … Without a doubt, he was one of the most influential people in my life — giving me a chance when no one else would. Any coaching success I’ve ever had is because of him. Long after he left Michigan State, he was still one of the first people I would call when I had a tough decision in coaching or life.”

Heathcote also coached at Montana. He retired with a career record of 419-274. He was 339-221 at Michigan State.

“Coach Heathcote had an impact on so many people,” Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said. “He was among the best teachers I had the opportunity to be around.”

Heathcote’s greatest professional moment came in Salt Lake City. That’s where his Spartans beat Indiana State (and Larry Bird), 75-64, in the final game of the 1979 NCAA Tournament. It remains the highest-rated televised game in the history of college basketball. It happened in Heathcote’s third season in charge of the Big Ten program. He finished his career with three Big Ten titles.


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