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Jud Heathcote

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Jud Heathcote
Biographical details
Born(1927-05-27)May 27, 1927
Harvey, North Dakota, U.S.
DiedAugust 28, 2017(2017-08-28) (aged 90)
Spokane, Washington, U.S.
Playing career
1946–1949Washington State
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1950–1964West Valley HS
1964–1971Washington State (assistant)
1976–1995Michigan State
Head coaching record
Overall419–274 (college)
Accomplishments and honors
NCAA Division I Tournament (1979)
2 Big Sky regular season (1975, 1976)
3 Big Ten regular season (1978, 1979, 1990)
NABC Coach of the Year (1990)
Big Ten Coach of the Year (1978, 1986)
College Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2009

George Melvin "Jud" Heathcote (May 27, 1927 – August 28, 2017) was an American basketball player and coach.[1] He was a college basketball head coach for 24 seasons: five at the University of Montana (1971–1976)[2] and nineteen at Michigan State University (1976–1995). Heathcote coached Magic Johnson during his two years at Michigan State, concluding with the 1979 national championship season.[3] He also coached the University of Montana to a national handball championship in 1974.

Early years[edit]

Born in Harvey, North Dakota, to Marion Grant Heathcote and Fawn (Walsh), Heathcote's father was a coach, but died in a 1930 diphtheria epidemic. His mother was a teacher and moved to live with her parents in Manchester, Washington, west of Seattle.[1]

Heathcote developed into a fine three-sport athlete at South Kitsap High School in Port Orchard,[4] and after a year in the Navy V-5 program as World War II ended, he enrolled at Washington State College in Pullman and played basketball for the Cougars under head coach Jack Friel.[1]

Coaching career[edit]

At age 44, Montana was the first for Heathcote as head coach of a college varsity program.[5][6] Out of college, he coached for fourteen seasons at West Valley High School in Spokane, Washington,[4][7] then at alma mater Washington State for seven years under Marv Harshman; five as freshman coach and two as frosh-varsity coach.

Montana had little historic success in the sport,[2] but in his fourth season at Missoula in 1974–75, Heathcote led the Grizzlies to their first Big Sky Conference championship. They advanced to the NCAA Regionals, but lost by three in Portland in the Sweet Sixteen to eventual champion UCLA. Montana would not win another game in the Tournament until 2006. [2][8][9][10]

Heathcote was hired by Joseph Kearney at Michigan State in April 1976 and began the most successful phase of his coaching career.[11][12] In his third season in East Lansing, he guided the Spartans to the NCAA championship. Led on the court by sophomore Magic Johnson, MSU defeated the Larry Bird-led Indiana State Sycamores in the title game in Salt Lake City.[3]

In his nineteen years at Michigan State, the Spartans made nine NCAA tournament appearances and three National Invitation Tournament (NIT) appearances. As a coach, Heathcote was particularly noted for his excellent defensive strategies on the court and was second to none in blocking the opposing team from penetrating to the hoop. Heathcote retired after the 1994–95 season, having won 418 games and lost 275, for a .603 winning percentage. He was succeeded by Tom Izzo, a thirteen-year assistant coach and associate head coach for Heathcote's final five seasons.


After retiring from coaching, Heathcote returned to Spokane, where he lived until his death. He played handball until well into his seventies, and continued to play recreational golf. While Heathcote continued to follow Michigan State during the college season, his primary basketball interest in his final years was the local Gonzaga University; he attended all Bulldogs home games, and had a monthly lunch with head coach Mark Few.[13]

On August 28, 2017, Heathcote died at the age of 90.[14][15][16] "Michigan State has lost one of its icons today," current MSU basketball coach Tom Izzo said in a statement. "And yet, nothing can erase his impact on the program, the players he coached and the coaches he mentored. Spartan basketball is what it is today because of Jud Heathcote."[16]

Head coaching record[edit]


Statistics overview
Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
Montana Grizzlies (Big Sky Conference) (1971–1976)
1971–72 Montana 14–12 7–7 T–4th
1972–73 Montana 13–13 7–7 4th
1973–74 Montana 19–8 11–3 T–1st Big Sky playoff
1974–75 Montana 21–8 13–1 1st NCAA Sweet Sixteen
1975–76 Montana 13–12 7–7 5th
Montana: 80–53 (.602) 45–25 (.643)
Michigan State Spartans (Big Ten Conference) (1976–1995)
1976–77 Michigan State 12–15* 9–9* 6th
1977–78 Michigan State 25–5 15–3 1st NCAA Elite Eight
1978–79 Michigan State 26–6 13–5 1st NCAA Champion
1979–80 Michigan State 12–15 6–12 8th
1980–81 Michigan State 13–14 7–11 8th
1981–82 Michigan State 12–16^ 7–11^ T–7th
1982–83 Michigan State 17–13 9–9 T–6th NIT Second Round
1983–84 Michigan State 16–12^ 9–9^ 5th
1984–85 Michigan State 19–10 10–8 T–5th NCAA first round
1985–86 Michigan State 23–8 12–6 3rd NCAA Sweet 16
1986–87 Michigan State 11–17 6–12 7th
1987–88 Michigan State 10–18 5–13 8th
1988–89 Michigan State 18–15 6–12 T–8th NIT Semifinal
1989–90 Michigan State 28–6 15–3 1st NCAA Sweet 16
1990–91 Michigan State 19–11 11–7 T–3rd NCAA second round
1991–92 Michigan State 22–8 11–7 T–3rd NCAA second round
1992–93 Michigan State 15–13 7–11 T–8th NIT First Round
1993–94 Michigan State 20–12 10–8 T–4th NCAA second round
1994–95 Michigan State 22–6 14–4 2nd NCAA first round
Michigan State: 340–220 (.607) 182–160 (.532)
Total: 420–273 (.606)

      National champion         Postseason invitational champion  
      Conference regular season champion         Conference regular season and conference tournament champion
      Division regular season champion       Division regular season and conference tournament champion
      Conference tournament champion

*Due to forfeits related to NCAA sanctions to Minnesota for improper selling of tickets,[17] MSU's official record for the 1976–77 season is 12–15, 9–9 though they finished the season 10–17, 7–11.
^Due to NCAA sanctions against Wisconsin for providing improper benefits for players,[18] MSU's official record for the 1981–82 season is 12–16, 7–11 though they finished the season 11–17, 6–12. The official record for the 1983–84 seasonal is 16–12, 9–9 though they finished the season 15–13, 8–10

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Blanchette, John (August 28, 2017). "Spokane's Jud Heathcote, longtime coach at Michigan State, dies at 90". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington).
  2. ^ a b c "The heart of Grizzly basketball goes quiet". University of Montana Athletics. August 29, 2017. Retrieved August 29, 2017.
  3. ^ a b Keith, Larry (April 2, 1979). "They caged the Bird". Sports Illustrated. p. 16.
  4. ^ a b "Cougars hire Jud". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). May 27, 1964. p. 14.
  5. ^ "Montana hires WSU's Heathcote as new Grizzly basketball coach". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). April 1, 1971. p. 20.
  6. ^ "Team to run - Heathcote". Spokane Daily Chronicle. (Washington). Associated Press. April 1, 1971. p. 33.
  7. ^ "Heathcote named basketball assistant at Washington State". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). May 27, 1964. p. 18.
  8. ^ Cawood, Neil (March 21, 1975). "It's UCLA - despite Eric Hays' heroics". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). p. 3C.
  9. ^ "Gritty Montana's rally falls short as UCLA struggle to 67-64 win". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. March 21, 1975. p. 30.
  10. ^ "Bruins slip past Montana, 67-64". Lewiston Morning-Tribune. (Idaho). Associated Press. March 21, 1975. p. 1B.
  11. ^ "MSU tabs Rogers, Heathcote". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. April 6, 1976. p. 19.
  12. ^ "Heathcote gets MSU job". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). Associated Press. April 6, 1976. p. 1B.
  13. ^ Medcalf, Myron (May 29, 2014). "What happens after coaching?". ESPN.com. Retrieved May 29, 2014.
  14. ^ Larry Lage (2017-08-28). "Former Michigan State coach Jud Heathcote dies at 90". abcnews.go.com. Retrieved 2017-08-28.
  15. ^ "Ex-Michigan State coach Heathcote dies at 90". ESPN.com. Retrieved 2017-08-29.
  16. ^ a b "Former Michigan State basketball coach Jud Heathcote dies at age 90". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 2017-08-29.
  17. ^ Fury, Shawn (2010-01-05). "Shawn's Blog: Who was the best college team that never existed?". Shawn's Blog. Retrieved 2017-02-10.
  18. ^ "NCAA punishes Yoder, Wisconsin basketball (July 18, 1986)". Retrieved 2017-08-30.