Michigan State will honor former coach Jud Heathcote against Purdue this weekend
Saturday afternoon’s game between No. 4 Michigan State and No. 3. Purdue will go a long way in determining who takes home the Big Ten regular season title. A Spartans win would keep them within one game of No. 14 Ohio State for the conference lead. A Boilermakers victory could keep them atop the standings, along with the Buckeyes.
But in addition to on-court implications, the top 5 showdown will also serve as a chance for those around Michigan state to honor one of the best to coach its men’s basketball program.
It’s being referred to as the Jud Heathcote Tribute Game.
Heathcote, who coached at Michigan State for 19 seasons and was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2001, passed away in August of 2016 at the age of 90. Soon after, Michigan State announced it would be honoring the legendary coach throughout the 2017-18 campaign, which included the tribute game on Feb. 10.
Heathcote arrived in East Lansing, Mich. from Montana in 1976 and led Michigan State to a 340-220 record and three Big Ten titles (1978, 1979, 1990). In 1979, the Spartans also went on to win the program’s first NCAA title. He retired in 1995.
Many of his former players and colleagues will be attendance Saturday, perhaps even more so because the date of the Michigan State-Purdue game coincided with the annual former player reunion. And current Spartans coach Tom Izzo, who served as an assistant to Heathcote from 1983-95, will certainly have his predecessor in mind as he attempts to knock off the Boilermakers.
Izzo, who took over the Michigan State head coaching job in 1995, spoke admirably about Heathcote shortly after his passing.
“Jud might be gone, but he will live on as a part of our basketball program and our university as we dedicate the upcoming season to his memory,” Izzo said in a university press release. “Every time we take the court, the patches on the uniforms will remind us of the man who set a great foundation for anything we accomplish now. I can’t wait for that Tribute Game against Purdue. I look forward to seeing so many of his former players paying their respect to a man to whom they owe so much. I know that weekend will involve amazing stories, laughter and tears. Jud had some great battles against the Boilermakers, and I’m hopeful that Gene Keady, one of his closest friends in the profession, will be able to join us for that game.”