BY RICK SCHULTE
When the opportunity opened for Lonnie Pugh to return to the track and field program at Michigan State University, he couldn’t help but jump at the chance.
The one-time athletic standout at Grosse Ile High School just completed his first full year as an assistant coach with the Spartans, aiding in the throwing events. Now, he gets to help the Spartans in a new capacity after excelling as a three-time NCAA throwing champion (twice in the discus and once in the weight throw).
Being a great athlete doesn’t automatically translate into being a great coach. However, Pugh has always been wired to reach higher.
“It is exciting to have Lonnie back in the program.” Michigan State Coach Walt Drenth said. “He has gone out and honed his skills as a coach in a variety of different aspects of higher education. He has a great presence, and he is someone that the student-athletes will be excited to work with and excel under.”
During his first stint in East Lansing, Pugh was a four-year letter winner and a three-time team captain, graduating in 2013. He earned all-America honors in the 2010-11 season and took second team honors the following year.
But go beyond the numbers and you get a sense of why Pugh — who also earned a Big 10 sportsmanship award his senior year — has the skills to be a leader. Pugh was a member of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee, and was track liaison for the Student Athlete Multicultural Advisory Committee. He also earned the Spartans’ coaches award in 2012 and the Big Ten’s Sportsmanship Award for 2012-13.
Following graduation, he moved on to Siena Heights University, then Adrian College, where he served as an assistant track coach. His emphasis was in throwing events, but he also assisted with recruiting and practice planning. At Adrian, Pugh also served as an academic support specialist (helping start a new tutoring program).
“I am elated to come back to Michigan State,” Pugh said. “It is great to see where the program was when I was first came to MSU as a freshman … and where they are now. It is astonishing to see, and it makes me very happy to come back and be a part of this phenomenal program.”
“It’s awesome when you get the chance to bring someone back to the program that has been a part of what we have tried to build here at State.” Drenth said.