Howard is no Magic, Michigan St.'s Heathcote insists

November 12, 1991|By Perry A. Farrell | Perry A. Farrell,Knight-Ridder

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Jud Heathcote insists that only one athlete should be called Magic.

And it's not Michigan wide receiver Desmond Howard, a Heisman Trophy candidate.

Heathcote, Michigan State's basketball coach, said yesterday that he got irritated when he heard Howard referred to as "Magic," especially in the wake of Earvin "Magic" Johnson's revelation that he has the HIV virus.

Johnson played for Heathcote at Michigan State when the Spartans won the 1979 NCAA title. Heathcote asked reporters to reserve the nickname for Johnson alone.

Heathcote said of Howard: "Call him 'Mr. Touchdown' or 'Mez,' because he mesmerizes the opposition, or 'Our Hero,' but please, if you would help me, don't refer to him as Magic.

"There is only one Magic Johnson as far as I'm concerned, and in the state of Michigan there is only one Magic. There. I got that off my chest."

Howard picked up the nickname as an eighth-grader in Cleveland.

"I think for Desmond, he thinks Earvin Johnson is a fantastic athlete and he's always been one of his idols," said Bruce Madej, Michigan's sports information director. "I think it's a tribute to Magic Johnson as much as anything that people do use his nickname."

Heathcote said of Johnson's illness: "Earvin Johnson is the best player I ever coached. People aren't surprised when I tell them that. He's the hardest worker I ever coached. When I tell people that, they're usually surprised. He worked harder than anybody in the offseason. He was never satisfied with his game. He'll work hard on this."

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