LOS ANGELES — Righetti High School grad Kenny Heitz, a member of three NCAA championship basketball teams at UCLA, has died following a long battle with cancer. He was 65.
UCLA said Tuesday that Heitz, who played with the Bruins from 1967-69, died Monday in Pacific Palisades.
In a press release from the UCLA Athletic Department, 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."
A 1965 graduate of Righetti, Heitz joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — known then as Lew Alcindor — Lucius Allen and Lynn Shackelford on the 1965-66 freshman team that defeated the two-time defending national champion varsity in the first game played in the fabled Pauley Pavilion.
The Bruins finished with an 88-2 record during Heitz’s career and became the first school to win three consecutive titles.
As a sophomore, Heitz played in all 30 games for the Bruins, then 27 games as a junior. His senior year finished with Heitz winning Academic All-American honors.
At Righetti, Heitz earned honors as a high school All-American and was CIF Player of the Year in his senior season. He graduated with honors in May of 1965.
Heitz, who was drafted by Milwaukee in 1969, graduated from Harvard Law School and went on to successful career in the Los Angeles area. He specialized in commercial litigation and corporate law.
When Heitz was inducted into the very first class of the Righetti Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003, he was inducted by his coach and mentor John Wooden before a packed house at the Santa Maria Country Club. The two remained extremely close until Wooden passed away in 2010.
Heitz was also inducted into the Northern Santa Barbara County Athletic Roundtable Hall of Fame in 2001.
He is survived by his wife, Linda, three daughters and two granddaughters.
In the release Linda acknowledged the closeness of the UCLA basketball family.
“The UCLA basketball family was a great comfort to Ken throughout his battle with cancer, “she said. “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.” Arrangements for a memorial service are pending.