Mat Ishbia made a stop at the Jerk Store before Game 5

May 9, 2023, 6:52 PM | Updated: 6:58 pm

Mel Tucker...

(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

Suns owner Mat Ishbia was already perhaps the most hated figure among Colorado sports fans after his role in drawing a technical foul against Nikola Jokić in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals on Sunday night.

So, where do you go from there?

You bring one of the most infamous figures in the state’s recent sports history to sit courtside at Ball Arena.

As KCNC-Ch. 4’s Romi Bean shared on Twitter, none other than Mel Tucker — the erstwhile CU football coach who left Boulder for Michigan State under cover of darkness three years ago – will be on hand in a plum seat as the guest of the new Suns owner.

There’s a deep connection between Tucker and Ishbia, of course. Ishbia, a former Michigan State men’s basketball player, is a longtime donor to the school and its athletic department.

Early in 2021, Ishbia donated $32 million to Michigan State. Of that tally, $20 million went to building Tucker’s football program a new building — named for men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo.

But that only scratches the surface of the connection with Tucker.

In a way, Tucker owes part of the largesse in his bank account to Ishbia. In the midst of guiding Michigan State to the Peach Bowl in 2021, Tucker leveraged the season — and potential interest from other schools — into a 10-year, $95-million extension. Ishbia told HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel that he personally contributed $14 million of that cost to keep Tucker in East Lansing.

“I gave another $14 million to Michigan State, is what I gave,” Ishbia said then. “And the reality is, a 10-year, $95-million contract sounds like a lot right now. In eight years, that will be the middle of the road.”

It might well prove to be the case. But Tucker followed the 11-2 season that spurred the extension by guiding Sparty to a forgettable 5-7 finish. It was MSU’s worst full-length football season since 2016. Tucker has an 18-14 record at Michigan State. That is considerably worse in winning percentage than the 114-57 mark notched by his predecessor, Mark Dantonio.

Tucker’s presence might make the CSU and Nebraska-supporting segments of the Nuggets fan base smile. But everyone else could well retch at the return of Midnight Mel.

Meanwhile, it looks as if Ishbia and Jokić are patching things up.

In that regard, all is well. And given the good-humored Jokić’s nature, that comes as no surprise.

But if the Ball Arena game-presentation people want to get the crowd riled up, they need only put a picture of Tucker on the video boards.


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Mat Ishbia made a stop at the Jerk Store before Game 5