Men’s Basketball Head Coach Mike Lightfoot ’78 reached a historic milestone on Tuesday, Jan. 21, when the nationally ranked Pilots defeated the Taylor University Trojans 84-70 for their 16th win of the season. This marked the 700th victory in Lightfoot’s illustrious career.

Lightfoot has won 700 games the way his teams have played year after year — fast. In only 960 chances, Lightfoot joined the ranks of some of the greatest coaches ever to pace the sidelines — Adolph Rupp, Dean Smith, Phog Allen, Henry Iba, Bob Knight, to name a few — making him the third-quickest NAIA coach and 18th-quickest coach in men’s college basketball history to reach 700 career victories.

He’s also just the second coach to reach 700 wins at a four year Indiana college, behind former Taylor coach, Paul Patterson. Lightfoot was modest about his milestone win, saying it was simply a case of being around for a very long time. But when asked why he has stayed at Bethel for his entire career (1987-present), Lightfoot became nostalgic.

“There are so many former players and coaches over the years who are responsible for this, it’s not just one individual,” Lightfoot remarked. “Because of their effort and dedication to Bethel, it makes for a great accomplishment for our entire program.”

Lightfoot arrived at Bethel in 1987 and took over the program from the legendary Homer Drew. At that time, the team had never been to the NAIA national tournament nor won a league championship. Since then, the Pilots have won 18 league championships and made 11 NAIA national championship appearances, including three titles (1995, 1997, 1998) and two additional Fab Fours (1999, 2009). Coach Lightfoot also steered four teams to NCCAA National Championships (1992, 1993, 2000, 2007) and five more to Final Four appearances (1989, 1990, 2003, 2004, 2005).

An NAIA Hall of Fame coach, Lightfoot has recorded 22 20-win seasons, including 10 30-win seasons, and owns a career-winning percentage of .730 (712-263), the second-highest among active NAIA Division II coaches with at least 350 victories.

“Coach has impacted so many lives and that includes mine,” says Athletic Director Jody Martinez, who played under Lightfoot in high school and at Bethel. “He uses the game of basketball as a tool for the ultimate impact.”

Lightfoot will be honored by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) at the NCAA Final Four in Dallas, Texas, in recognition of his 700 wins. He will receive the NABC Guardians of the Game Pillar Award at the annual awards banquet, where other honors such as coach of the year, player of the year, the Big Man and Defensive Player of the Year will also be given.

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