The Lightfoot Legacy
If Mike Lightfoot ’78 had never won a basketball game as a head coach, but was able to minister to and change the life of a single player, he would have considered his job well done.
Lightfoot succeeded head coach Homer Drew in 1987, a hiring decision influenced by Dennis Engbrecht, then the vice president for student development, who was tasked with taking a head coach recommendation to President Jim Bennett ’61, Ph.D.
Engbrecht had his list down to two candidates.
“I was kind of leaning the other way, but then I didn’t know Mike that well,’’ Engbrecht remembers. “So when I had a chance to really interview him, I asked him what he’d be doing if he wasn’t coaching and he said he would be a preacher. That made my decision easy.’’
Thirty years later, Lightfoot has become a Bethel legend, winning 794 games, three NAIA Division II titles and four NCCAA titles.
Then in January, Lightfoot announced his retirement from coaching and Athletic Director Tom Visker named Mike’s son Ryne Lightfoot ’10, ’13, as the new coach beginning with the 2017-18 season.
Mike Lightfoot leaves an incredible legacy behind, but it’s the relationships with his players that he’ll remember most.
“I hope my legacy will live on in the players I’ve coached,’’ Lightfoot says. “Whether it’s as a basketball coach, or in their churches or just in life. Wherever they are, it’s great to see them as individuals when they leave Bethel.
“When Ryne takes over, having played for me, he’ll already know what our program stands for. Coach Drew passed it on to me that we stress the spiritual life, academics and then athletics and I never want that to change.’’
While he has had ten players play professional basketball overseas, Lightfoot is just as pleased to have taken over a hundred Bethel players on mission trips to the Dominican Republic, Mexico, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Alaska and Ecuador.
“I’ve always looked at our mission trip as a big part of what we do here,’’ Lightfoot said. “Basketball draws people. Through the game, you gain an instant audience and a platform to share the Good News to a dark and lost world.”
Prior to Bethel’s Feb. 4 game against Grace, Bethel announced that the court at the Gates Gymnasium will now be named the Mike Lightfoot Court