The Phoenix Suns lost one of the most integral pieces of their history Sunday when longtime head coach John MacLeod passed away at age 81.
The winningest coach in franchise history, MacLeod led the Suns to 579 regular-season and 37 postseason victories from 1973-87. He guided the Suns to three Western Conference Finals appearances, including their first-ever trip to the NBA Finals in 1976. He was an NBA All-Star Game head coach in 1981 and was inducted into the Suns' Ring of Honor in 2012.
Longtime Suns owner Jerry Colangelo, who brought MacLeod to Phoenix, said Suns fans should remember MacLeod not only as an outstanding coach, but as a first-class individual.
"John MacLeod plays a very significant role in the history of the Phoenix Suns," Colangelo told ABC15 on Monday. "He made great contributions to the franchise, did an outstanding job. And all of that aside, he was a terrific individual — a good man, a great family man, totally passionate about family, his faith (and) his work."
Colangelo said one of MacLeod's most important contributions to the franchise was spearheading the effort to select Alvan Adams with the fourth overall pick in the 1975 NBA Draft. Adams, whom MacLeod coached at Oklahoma before accepting the Suns job, helped the Suns reach the NBA Finals in his rookie season. He remains the Suns' all-time leader in games played and is second all-time (behind Walter Davis) in points.
"Bottom line is he was just a terrific individual, and I’ll be forever greatful for his contributions," Colangelo said of MacLeod.
In a statement Sunday, the Suns said MacLeod will be remembered as a remarkable man on and off the court.
"His passion for the game was matched only by his endearing personality, humility and class, a man who was loved by everyone that had the pleasure of interacting with him. Coach MacLeod was a winner in every sense and will be dearly missed by our entire Phoenix Suns family. Our thoughts are with his lovely wife Carol, daughter Kathleen and son Matt, during this difficult time," the Suns said.
MacLeod's passing comes less than six months after the Suns lost another key part of their history: Richard Bloch, the Suns' co-founder, passed away in October at age 89.