Michi­gan State hoops coach, broad­caster

Chicago Sun-Times - - OBITUARIES -

EAST LANS­ING, Mich. — Gus Ganakas, who was the coach of Michi­gan State’s men’s bas­ket­ball team from 1969-76 and re­mained part of the ath­letic de­part­ment un­til his re­tire­ment in 2000, has died. He was 92.

Michi­gan State said Mr. Ganakas died Fri­day.

“Gus was one of the most self­less and pos­i­tive peo­ple that I’ve ever been around,” said Tom Izzo, the men’s bas­ket­ball program’s cur­rent coach. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the en­tire Ganakas fam­ily as they grieve their loss.”

Mr. Ganakas be­came an as­sis­tant coach at Michi­gan State in 1966. After tak­ing over as head coach three years later, he went 89-84 in seven sea­sons. Jud Heath­cote suc­ceeded him and coached the Spar­tans to a national ti­tle in 1979, with Magic John­son lead­ing the way.

“You’ll learn all you need to about Gus when you look at the way he han­dled be­ing re­placed as head coach,” Izzo said in a state­ment. “Most of us would have wanted our re­place­ment to fail, hop­ing it would make us look good. But that wasn’t who Gus was. In­stead, he made sure that the lo­cal high school su­per­star Earvin John­son knew that Michi­gan State was still the right place for him to at­tend and that new coach Jud Heath­cote was the right guy to play for. As they say, the rest is his­tory.”

Mr. Ganakas was an as­sis­tant ath­letic di­rec­tor from 1976-98 and an aide to Izzo from 1998-2000. He also spent over 30 years as one of the voices of Michi­gan State men’s bas­ket­ball, serv­ing as a color com­men­ta­tor.

“For 20 sea­sons we were broad­cast part­ners — a part­ner­ship that would turn into one of the great­est friend­ships of my life,” said Will Tie­man, play-by-play an­nouncer from 1992-96 and since 2002. “You couldn’t help but love Gus. He was truly one of the greats of the great­est gen­er­a­tion.”

Born in Mount Mor­ris, New York, Mr. Ganakas earned his bach­e­lor’s de­gree in phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion from Michi­gan State in 1949 and a master’s de­gree in the same field in 1950. He went to Michi­gan State after serv­ing in the U.S. Ma­rine Corps dur­ing World War II.

Be­fore be­com­ing an as­sis­tant bas­ket­ball coach, Mr. Ganakas was the co­or­di­na­tor for the Ralph Young Fund, known today as the Spar­tan Fund. In 2017, the Michi­gan State most valu­able player award as voted on by the play­ers was named in his honor.

“Gus has helped build the fam­ily at­mos­phere within Michi­gan State bas­ket­ball,” Izzo said. “The con­nec­tion be­tween our past and our present is the best of any program in the na­tion be­cause of Gus. For­mer Spar­tans from all eras feel con­nected to the cur­rent team, and much of that credit goes to Gus.”


Gus Ganakas was the coach of Michi­gan State’s men’s bas­ket­ball team from 1969 to 1976.

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