EAST LANSING, MI – 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 January 11. He was 92.
Augustus George “Gus” Ganakas was born and raised in Mount Morris, NY to Greek immigrants, Edward and Eugenia Ganakas. He graduated from Mount Morris High School in 1944, where his love of academics and sports provided him opportunities to develop his coaching skills. Immediately after graduation, he proudly enlisted and served in the United States Marine Corp, the Battle of Okinawa, a part of the Pacific Theater of World War II.
In 1946, he took advantage of the G.I. Bill by attending Michigan State College to earn his Bachelor and Master’s degree. Ganakas married his lifetime sweetheart, Ruth D’Imperio. Their unconditional love for each other endured for 67 years until Ruth’s death in 2014.
Ganakas’ professional career spanned over 65 years beginning as a teacher at Olivet High School, then continued an illustrious 14 year career at East Lansing High School teaching algebra, coaching football, basketball, baseball and golf. While at East Lansing High School, he is most noted for winning the 1958 Class B Boys Basketball Championship. Ganakas spent the next 40 years at Michigan State University serving as Director of the Ralph Young Scholarship Fund, Assistant Basketball Coach, Head Basketball Coach, Assistant Athletic Director, and finally as the radio voice of Spartan basketball.
His devoted wife, Ruth, parents, brothers, and sisters preceded him in death. He is survived by his children, Gail, Gary, Greg, Anne, Amy and Marcy. “His grandchildren, Erin (Zach) Webb, Jennifer Rose (Ryan) Calverley, Katie Rose Dalebout, great granddaughter, Genevieve ‘Evie’ Rose Webb and his many nieces, nephews, and friends will miss his sense of humor, love, words of wisdom, gentle nature, and hearty laugh,” the Lansing State Journal reported, adding that “the family is extremely grateful to Sparrow Home Hospice for the gentle care and support given.”
Contributions may be made to St. Thomas Aquinas Church or St. Vincent DePaul at St. Thomas Aquinas, 955 Alton Rd., East Lansing, MI 48823 or Marine Corp League, 477 Michigan Ave., #1232, Detroit, MI 48226.
Visitation and Services will be held at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, 955 Alton Rd., East Lansing. The family will receive friends Tuesday from 3:00-8:00 p.m. A Rosary will be prayed at 7:30 p.m. The Funeral Mass will be celebrated Wednesday at 11 a.m. Interment will follow at St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery.
Michigan State released a statement on the passing of Ganakas 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.”
The full statement from Michigan State is available online: https://msuspartans.com/news/2019/1/11/m-basketball-former-spartan-head-coach-gus-ganakas-passes-away.aspx.