Kenny Heitz, Three-Time NCAA Champion, Passes Away
July 10, 2012
Kenny Heitz, who was a member of three consecutive UCLA NCAA championship men's basketball teams and an outstanding lawyer in the Los Angeles area, passed away at his home in Pacific Palisades on Monday morning (July 9) following a long battle with cancer. He was 65 years old.
Heitz enrolled in UCLA in the fall of 1965 and was a member of the Bruin freshman team that defeated the two-time defending NCAA champion UCLA varsity squad, 75-60, in the first-ever game in Pauley Pavilion (Nov. 27, 1965). A starting forward on the freshman team, he averaged 14.3 points and 6.8 rebounds during the 1965-66 season. Heitz's UCLA frosh teammates included center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Lew Alcindor at the time), guard Lucius Allen, and forward Lynn Shackelford.
During his first two seasons with the Bruin varsity (1966-67 and 1967-68), Heitz was both a starter and key reserve at both forward and guard on teams that captured NCAA championships with records of 30-0 and 29-1, respectively. As a sophomore, he played in all 30 games and appeared in 27 games as a junior. Heitz was a starting guard as a senior in 1968-69, as UCLA compiled a record of 29-1 and became the first school in history to win three consecutive NCAA titles. He earned Academic All-America honors that season. During his three-year career, UCLA won 88 of 90 games to go with the three national championships and conference crowns.
Heitz earned his Bachelor's degree graduating Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from UCLA in 1969. Heitz was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in 1969 along with Kareem. While Heitz went to the Bucks' summer training camp, he knew it was just for fun as he was headed to Harvard Law School. Three years later, he earned his J.D. with honors from Harvard Law School.
Following graduation from Harvard Law, Heitz joined the Los Angeles law firm Irell & Manella where he became a Senior Partner specializing in commercial litigation and corporate law. Heitz was selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America 2007-2012 in the specialty areas of commercial litigation and corporate law. Heitz was also selected to The International Who's Who Legal as an expert in corporate governance and selected to the 2009 edition of California's Who's Who Legal. Heitz was named to the Southern California "Super Lawyers" list by Los Angeles Magazine every year since 2006.
Irell & Manella senior partner Morgan Chu said "For forty years, Ken has been our colleague, mentor, leader, partner, and pillar of strength. He was both a litigator and transactional lawyer, often involved in the most complex financial matters for clients. As he was on the basketball court, Ken was the consummate team player as a colleague. He made all of us better."
From 1988 - 1991, Heitz served as Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Columbia Savings and Loan including, for a short period, serving as acting CEO. In addition, Heitz served on the Board of Directors of El Paso Electric Company since 1996, where he served as Chairman of the Board since 2008, and as a member of the Board of Directors of Ares Capital Corporation since 2011.
UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero said "The Bruin family mourns the passing of Kenny Heitz. He was an integral member of three NCAA championships teams, a starter for the freshman team that won the first game ever played in Pauley Pavilion and a model student-athlete. He was a success in his chosen profession and, most importantly, a loving husband and father. Kenny fought valiantly against his illness as long as he could. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Linda, their three daughters, and the entire Heitz family."
Ken's wife, Linda, said "the UCLA basketball family was a great comfort to Ken throughout his battle with cancer. The constant stream of visits and calls from his UCLA teammates of over 40 years ago including Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar), Mike Warren, Shack (Lynn Shackelford), Andy Hill, Kenny Washington, Coach (Ben) Howland and so many others connected to the program, helped him through his fight and always raised his spirits."
Heitz is survived by his wife Linda and their daughter Alex, his former wife Barbara and their daughters Jennifer and Joanna, two sons-in-law, John and Dan, and two granddaughters, Eva and Rachel, as well as his two Italian mastiffs. Arrangements for a memorial service are pending.
CLick for Bruin Video