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Former MSU men’s basketball coach Gus Ganakas dies at 92

Courtesy photo of Gus Ganakas. (Credit: Michigan State University Athletics)

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Former Michigan State University men’s basketball coach Gus Ganakas has died at the age of 92.

Ganakas coached MSU from 1969-1976 and continued to be involved with the university’s athletic department until his retirement in 2000. He could also be heard on Spartan broadcasts for over 30 years as a color commentator.

He finished his seven-year run as head coach with an 89-84 record, with two fourth-place finishes in the Big Ten.

Head coach Tom Izzo released the following statement on Ganakas:

“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.”

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