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Former Spartan Head Coach Gus Ganakas Passes Away

He was 92 (1926-2019).

January 11, 2019 - 3:26 pm

East Lansing, Mich. – Former Michigan State men’s basketball head coach Gus Ganakas, who coached the Spartans from 1969-76 and was part of the athletics department from 1964 until his retirement in 2000, passed away on Friday, Jan. 11.  He was 92 (1926-2019).

Statement From Head Coach Tom Izzo

“Spartan Basketball has lost a dear friend today.  Gus was one of the most selfless and positive people that I’ve ever been around. Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Ganakas family as they grieve their loss.

“You’ll learn all you need to about Gus when you look at the way he handled being replaced as head coach. 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. But there is no doubt that Spartan Basketball wouldn’t be what it is today without Gus Ganakas.

“Gus would go on to play a major role in any coaching success that I’ve enjoyed. Early on, he was on my staff and provided a great sounding board for a first time head coach. Throughout most of my career he also served as the analyst on our radio broadcasts, where he could always find the good in our performances, and tried his best to cheer me up despite how upset I might be.

“But most importantly, Gus has helped build the family atmosphere within Michigan State basketball. 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.

“We will all miss Gus … his smile and his sense of humor. He’s been a bright light to my entire family, from both my parents to my wife Lupe and children Raquel and Steven. But his impact on the entire Spartan family will continue to live on. And if there are ever tough times in heaven, they now have the perfect guy to make everyone feel just a little bit better.”