Jan. 19, 2006
Editor's Note: This is the first of a four-part series featuring the "Four-Fathers of Cougar Basketball": Jack Friel, Marv Harshman, Jud Heathcote and George Raveling.
The quartet will be honored prior to Saturday's (Jan. 21) men's basketball game versus Oregon State at Beasley Coliseum. For tickets call 800-GO-COUGS or go to the Tickets link at wsucougars.com
Today's feature: Jud Heathcote. Check back to wsucougars.com Friday for the final part of the Four-Fathers series.
By: Conor Laffey WSU Sport Information
Pullman, Wash., has been a special place to many people throughout the years. To Jud Heathcote it has been a place of opportunity.
A legendary coach, Heathcote was given the opportunity to come to Washington State University in 1949 as a student-athlete. During Heathcote's senior year with the Cougars, under fellow Four-Father coach Jack Friel, WSU compiled a 21-9 record. While playing under Friel, Heatchote saw Friel's style of coaching and remembered Friel's ability to study the game.
"In that time teams only had one coach and he was all by himself," Heathcote said. "Then while I was coaching we only had two. Now teams have four or more coaches."
It wasn't until his arrival back to the Palouse that we remember Heathcote as a legendary coach. After coaching 14 years at West Valley High School in Spokane, Heathcote made it back to his alma mater in 1964. It was at WSU where Heathcote got a taste of the collegiate coaching world.
Heathcote came to WSU as an assistant coach under Marv Harshman, another Four-Father, for seven years. He was the freshman coach and finished his coaching stint as the varsity assistant. However, don't let the official title fool you. Harshman often commented that his relationship with Heathcote was not a "head to assistant," but rather a co-coach relationship. During the seven years the two spent together they created some of the best teams in Cougar history.
"We relied on each other," Heathcote said. "Marv might have been the best offensive mind in college basketball and I was more defensive oriented."
The two had a great relationship and worked very well together. During the Pan American games the two were paired up again, five years after Heathcote left to take the head coaching job at Montana. During the practices, both coaches would blow the whistle simultaneously and each would say the same thing.
During his coaching career at WSU, Heathcote took the freshman Coubabes and turned them into the team to watch. His freshman teams accumulated 99 wins before Heathcote left to become a head coach at Montana.
Heathcote began his tenure at Montana in 1971 and coached the Grizzlies to their first Big Sky Conference title. He coached five years for the Grizzlies then left to coach 19 years in East Lansing, Mich., for the Michigan State Spartans. In 1979, he coached the Spartans to the NCAA national title and snapped Indiana State's 33-game winning streak. He never returned to the championship game as a coach, but won three Big-10 titles. However, in Heathcote's eyes nothing tops the national championship.
"Even though it happened years ago, it still gets bigger and better," Heathcote said. "We have five, 10, 20, and 25-year reunions and everybody shows up, it makes for a real fun time."
Heathcote now resides in Spokane, where he has had season tickets for the Gonzaga Bulldogs for 11 years. He said he still gives his input to the Zags coaches, but they just ignore him (as he chuckles). He has attended 32 straight Final Fours and his wife Beverly has gone to 28. He remains close to Michigan State Head Coach Tom Izzo and watches all of the Spartans' games on television and still offers input to Izzo.
"I have involved him in every major decision during my career," Izzo said. "I learned more about coaching and dealing with people through Jud (Heathcote) than anyone else."
He coached the game of basketball for 45 years, but just like a "true Cougar" Heathcote described his years at Washington State as the special years. He said the four years going to school at Cougarville were the best four years of his life. The years of coaching in Pullman, Heathcote remembers as his favorite. Along with his wife, Heathcote says of all the places they have been, it always comes back to Pullman as their favorite. He remembers it as the years he was able to watch his child grow as he and his wife started rearing their three children, Jerry, Carla, and Barbara in Spokane, and then moved to Pullman.
The Cougar alum is still a big Cougar fan. He is great friends with current WSU Head Coach Dick Bennett and his family and appreciates them very much. He used the word special to describe the family and they often have dinner together and remain great friends. When asked whom Heathcote would root for when Gonzaga plays WSU, the coached answered, "I lean towards the Cougars."
January 21, WSU will honor Heathcote as one of the Four-Fathers of Cougar basketball. Even though he accomplished great things with other teams and become a legendary coach at Michigan State, he helped put the Cougars on the map. He not only illustrated what it's like to be a Cougar when you're here, but typifies the feeling that being a Cougar never leaves you.