Comments on Coach

Peers expressed their views of John MacLeod, the Suns winningest coach in franchise history.
Photo Courtesy of Phoenix Suns.
Posted: April 17, 2012

With longtime Phoenix Suns coach John MacLeod set to enter the franchise's Ring of Honor on Wednesday night, Suns.com caught up with a number of his wife, former players, assistants and friends to get their thoughts on his career and impact on the game of basketball.


Carol MacLeod, John's Wife
“This honor is wonderful for his children. When you’re married to somebody in the limelight, or born into a family that’s in the limelight, it becomes your life too. There were a lot of tears, a lot of changing places, and you grow from that. It’s nice to see a father who our kids recognize as a hero honored by the team he loved, in the city he loved.”

Jerry Colangelo, Suns Chairman and Ring-of-Honor Member
“(The 1975-76 season) really did make a big, big statement for the franchise. Under John’s coaching we then drafted Walter Davis and had a string of 50-plus win seasons. It was a great time for Suns basketball. I always think of John and how great of a job he did, how professional he was in his job. He represented the franchise so well in every regard. He had a very illustrious career, and the most successful part of his career was here with the Suns.”

Paul Westphal, Former Suns Guard, Coach and Ring-of-Honor Member
“John set a standard for professionalism. You could walk by his office in August and he would be watching film at 4 in the afternoon. He was always prepared and always professional. What stands out most to me is that he set a standard for the organization. He was always concerned with the players and our private lives, while, at the same time, not being intrusive. As a player, you knew you were more than just a uniform to him.”

Alvan Adams, Former Suns Center and Ring-of-Honor Member
“I almost played my entire career with John – 11 and three-quarters of my 14 years – and I can still think back to that first year and remember we were on the same wavelength. Players and coaches aren’t always on the same wavelength – sometimes they never are, and one of them moves on – but John and I always were. I knew he what he wanted, I knew what the team needed and we had great team players. For those first 10 years I played – and he didn’t make the playoffs the two years he was here before me – we made the playoffs nine times. I think we exceeded our potential, and that’s because of, I believe, the coaching staff.”

Al Bianchi, Former Suns Assistant Coach
“The one thing I think of was when I first came on with John, and in all those years the teams were very disciplined. That was due to John. When we would do small things, like bus to the airport, there was only one bus, and we would take all the members of the media, too. Whoever you were – players, coaches, media members – you learned to run on John’s time, which was always 15 minutes early. It was just one way he established discipline on the team, but he was just such a great guy and a good family man.”

Walter Davis, Suns All-Time Scoring Leader and Ring-of-Honor Member
“We thought it was a big deal to have Coach MacLeod. He stabilized the team and became the longest-tenured coach there. That’s awesome. He was big on rules, and he had a lot of plays. But Coach MacLeod also let me go. He gave me a green light to play my game, but I tried not to take advantage of that because I respected him and the team.”

Dick Van Arsdale, the "Original Sun" and Ring-of-Honor Member
“I love John, as a coach, and I think I was with him 13 or 14 years. He was tough and he was honest – very honest. He liked me a lot, and I liked John. I saw him coach in Indiana when he was coaching high school and I was still in school. For 14 years he was a big coach here, and he did a great job with people. He was tough, but he was always ready. When we went up against the Boston Celtics (in 1975-76) for the NBA Championship, he was ready to win it all.”

Larry Nance, Former Suns Forward
“Well, the main thing is that, because I came from a small town in South Carolina, I was definitely a momma’s boy. I even went to Clemson, which was right up the road from my mom. But when I think back to playing for Coach MacLeod, I think of two things: No. 1 he was a great coach, and No. 2 he was like a father figure to me. He took me under his wing and mentored me. He went over-and-above what other coaches have done for me, personally.”

John Wetzel, Former Suns Assistant Coach
“The thing that has always impressed me, and I’ve known John since I played for him in 1975-76, is that he is just a solid, solid individual. He’s one of those guys that you really appreciated calling your friend. Even today, gives you a good feeling about yourself after you speak with him. He has always been a grounded person, which was always one of his best qualities.”

Gar Heard, Former Suns Forward
“I think John is the type of guy that would go out of his way to help anyone. The thing about John that he always made sure we knew was that his door was always open. That was the type of relationship he wanted to have with the players. He was always honest, and we respected that about him. I’m really happy that he is finally getting this honor. O fall the coaches I’ve had, he is definitely one of the best, and he is also one of the best friends I’ve ever had.”

Joe Proski, Former Suns Athletic Trainer and Ring-of-Honor Member
“I laughed because the first time I met him, when he came in here from Oklahoma – and I don’t even know if he got the job that day – but I wrote him a letter saying that I hoped he would be the one to be the next head coach. I told him that it would be like working with Vince Lombardi.”

Al McCoy, Suns Play-By-Play Radio Announcer
“Even though he took the Suns to their first NBA Finals in 1976 and coached in that dramatic triple-overtime game in the Boston Garden, perhaps, because of the small-market identity, he might not have gotten the recognition he deserved.”

Ronnie Lee, Former Suns Guard
“I think that John was definitely the only coach that used me to my full ability. What I mean by that is that I wasn’t great at one thing – shooting, dribbling, defending – but he saw that I could do a little of all of that coming out of college. He used me to my potential, and he had confidence in me. I respected that. He’s the only coach who took advantage of my ability like that.”

Kule Macy, Former Suns Guard
“His influence on me was about being a professional on and off the court. My dad taught me the game, but with Coach MacLeod he taught us to take care of ourselves. On the court, he was very organized, and we had a ton of set plays. It always tickled me – because when you play so many games, everyone knows your plays – he would try to hide the play call behind his play sheet. I had trouble seeing around that play card to see what he was actually calling.”

Alvin Scott, Former Suns Forward
“What I took away from my time with Coach MacLeod were a lot of fond memories over the eight years I spent with hijm. He was, at times, like a father to me. We were young kids, young men, and sometimes when you’re young you do things that don’t make your father happy. He would take the time to point this out, to tell us this is how we were supposed to act as professionals.”