Former LA Lakers Magic Johnson watches the New York Mets-Los Angeles Dodgers in game 5 of the NLDS at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on October 15, 2015. File photo by Jim Ruyman/UPI | License Photo
Earvin "Magic" Johnson honored the memory of Jud Heathcote on Tuesday, one day after his former collegiate coach at Michigan State died at the age of 90.
Heathcote guided the Johnson-led team to a national championship in 1979. He battled a number of ailments that kept him from returning to East Lansing in his later years.
"My college Coach Jud Heathcote will be missed so much. He was a great man & basketball coach who truly cared about me on & off the court," Johnson wrote on Twitter. "At MSU he pushed me in the classroom & coached me hard on the basketball court. I love him so much because he pushed me to be great.
"As a defensive coach known for perfecting the match up zone, we were always prepared for our opponent. He made us NCAA champions in 1979!
"Coach Heathcote made me a better person, player, and champion. He turned a young kid into a man. Thank you so much for all you did for me."
With Johnson as the star, the Spartans beat Larry Bird and Indiana State 75-64 in a classic NCAA championship game matchup in Salt Lake City. It is still the highest-rated college basketball game in television history.
Heathcote led Michigan State to 10 NCAA Tournament appearances and three Big Ten titles during his 19 years as coach.
Overall, Heathcote compiled a 416-277 record for a .600 winning percentage during his college career. The North Dakota native was the head coach at Montana before coming to Michigan State, where he went 339-221.