MISHAWAKA – With the formal announcement Thursday afternoon made by legendary Bethel men’s basketball coach Mike Lightfoot of his retirement at the end of the season, the subsequent announcement was made that his youngest son, Ryne, will take over as head coach next season.
Mike Lightfoot is calling it quits after 30 seasons on the bench for the Pilots, and is easily one of the most decorated head coaches at any level of college basketball. He passed the 750-win threshold last season and is the fastest coach to win 300, 500 and 600 games in a career. His career mark of 777-271 (as of Thursday) puts him two wins short of legendary coach Lou Henson, who finished his career at Illinois, and three behind Lute Olson, who led Arizona to a national championship in 1997. Lightfoot likely will retire among the top-25 winningest coaches in college men’s basketball history.
“It’s just the right time,” Mike Lightfoot said Thursday. “My entire career has been full of great, young men, the best assistant coaches, an unbelievable fan base and an amazing support staff. Bethel has truly been a blessing and I am so proud of the program we have built here. Together, we did something very special and I am excited to see how the next chapter of Bethel basketball unfolds.”
Ryne Lightfoot had himself a pair of all-time careers at both NorthWood High School and Bethel College before serving as a program assistant for his dad beginning in 2011.
Ryne graduated from NorthWood as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,673 points and is a member of the Elkhart County Sports Hall of Fame.
At Bethel, Ryne was a standout, totaling 2,075 points (10th all-time), 702 assists (5th all-time) and 500 rebounds (34th all-time). Ryne and two-time NAIA Player of the Year Rico Swanson (1998 graduate) are the only two players at Bethel to finish their careers with over 2,000 points, 700 assists and 500 rebounds.
While on the bench with his dad, the Pilots have posted a record of 134-52, won back-to-back Crossroads League Tournament Championships, added a Sweet Sixteen finish in 2013 and an Elite Eight finish in 2014.
“We have a great foundation that’s been built; a foundation of excellence and a commitment to one another and an ambition for high performance,” stated Ryne Lightfoot at the Thursday press conference. “I’m excited to have the opportunity to use that foundation and continue to move the Bethel basketball program to new heights.”
Bethel continues its season Saturday at No. 3 Indiana Wesleyan.