MISHAWAKA – Mike Lightfoot has has a legendary coaching career.
That illustrious career is going to come to an end for the classy Bethel College icon at the end of the current basketball season.
Lightfoot, in a release issued by the school this afternoon, plans to retire at the conclusion of the 2016-17 season.
Lightfoot is slated to hold a press conference on Thursday at 1 p.m. in the Wiekamp Athletic Center on the Bethel College campus to release details on the reason for his decision. He will be joined by Bethel College Athletic Director Tom Visker and the public is encouraged to attend the press conference.
Lightfoot, a 1978 Bethel College graduate, has spent the last 30 years as the coach of the Pilots. He has won 777 games during his amazing tenure. Lightfoot has guided the Pilots to three NAIA and four NCCAA National Championships in his career and 18 Crossroads League regular season and tournament titles.
“My entire career has been an unbelievable blessing,” stated Lightfoot in the release. “I am so proud of the program we have built here at Bethel and I couldn’t have asked for better players, assistant coaches and supporters along this journey.”
Lightfoot, who at 777-271 is one of college basketball’s all-time winningest coaches, was hired in 1987 as Bethel’s eighth men’s basketball coach in program history following his mentor Homer Drew.
The 60-year old Lightfoot, a longtime resident of Wakarusa, has had a huge impact far beyond the basketball court. He boasts a 98 percent graduation rate for players in his program the last three decades and has taken numerous teams on Missions trips.
Lightfoot and his wife Jacci have two sons, Ryne and Robbie. Both of the younger Lightfoots were standout players at NorthWood High School and went on to play for their father at Bethel. Ryne, who ranks third all-time in Elkhart County high school hoops history with 1,673 points, is currently in his sixth season as an assistant coach for the Pilots.
The current Bethel roster includes seniors Clay Yeo from Triton High School, Nick Kindig from Tippecanoe Valley High School and Jordyn Coon from Warsaw Community High School. Yeo, a senior, is sidelined for the rest of the season due to a knee injury. Also playing for the Pilots are juniors Tanner Shepherd (Triton) and Will Stueve (NorthWood) and freshmen Brady Bechtel (Goshen), Chase Fierstos (Manchester) and Trey Burns (Penn).
A plethora of former Bethel players, who excelled under Lightfoot, are now high school coaches throughout the Hoosier State. That impressive list includes Jason Groves at Triton, Kyle Sears at Elkhart Memorial and Ryan Bales at Plymouth. The lengthy list also includes former Goshen coach Brian Bechtel, who stepped down after last season.
Lightfoot, prior to coming to Bethel, spent seven seasons as the coach at Mishawaka Marian High School. He was 80-68 during his time in charge of the Knights’ program.
The Pilots, who have five seniors this season, improved to 14-3 overall and 4-1 in Crossroads League play with a 71-64 conference win at Marian Tuesday night. Bethel, which is ranked No. 14, plays at No. 3 Indiana Wesleyan on Saturday in a huge conference game at 3 p.m.