Kenny Heitz, who played on the UCLA basketball teams that won three consecutive NCAA championships in the late 1960s, died Monday at his Pacific Palisades home from cancer, the . He was 65.
Heitz was a starter and key reserve at both forward and guard on the 1966-67 and 1967-68 NCAA championship teams that were led by his classmate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, then known as Lew Alcindor.
Heitz was a starting guard on the 1968-69 team and received Academic All- America honors as the Bruins became the first team to win three consecutive NCAA championships. According to the UCLA Athletics website, the Bruins were 88-2 during Heitz's career.
(UCLA went on to win the NCAA championship each of the next four seasons for a record seven consecutive championships that still stands and experts believe will never be broken.)
In an era when freshman were not able to play on the varsity, Heitz was a member of the freshman team that memorably defeated the two-time defending NCAA champion varsity team, 75-60, in the first game at Pauley Pavilion on Nov. 27, 1965.
Heitz was drafted in the fifth round - the 59th overall selection - of the 1969 NBA draft by the Milwaukee Bucks, who selected Abdul-Jabbar with the first choice. Heitz participated in the team's summer training camp, but that marked his final organized basketball activity as he instead headed for Harvard Law School, where he graduated in 1972.
Heitz joined the Los Angeles law firm Irell & Manella following graduation, becoming a senior partner specializing in commercial litigation and corporate law.
Heitz was also executive vice president and general counsel of Columbia Savings and Loan from 1988-91 and briefly was acting chief executive officer. Heitz served on the board of directors of the El Paso Electric Co. since 1996 and as chairman of the board since 2008, and a member the board of directors of Areas Capital Corp. since 2011.
Heitz was included in "The Best Commercial Lawyers in America" from 2007-2012 in the specialty areas of commercial litigation and corporate law.
Heitz was named to the Southern California "Super Lawyers" list by Los Angeles magazine every year since 2006.
"For 40 years, Ken has been our colleague, mentor, leader, partner and pillar of strength," said Irell & Manella senior partner Morgan Chu.
"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."
Heitz is survived by his wife Linda, daughters Jennifer, Joanna and Alexis and granddaughters Eva and Rachel. Arrangements for a memorial service are pending.
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