MacLeod Finds Home in Ring of Honor

By Aaron Seidlitz,

Posted: April 18, 2012

Before the spotlight shined on John MacLeod at halftime of Wednesday night’s game at US Airways Center, a more intimate collection of MacLeod’s friends, family and former players gathered at a downtown Phoenix restaurant.

It was a reunion to start the evening, in honor of the coach who was about to enter the Phoenix Suns’ Ring of Honor.

Everybody surrounding MacLeod was looking forward to the halftime moment when his name and image would be unveiled in the rafters, amongst the other 12 members.

But as his former players greeted their coach, it became apparent that this moment was also special.

The talk wasn’t of his 707 career victories, or the 579 he had with the Suns. It wasn’t about eight consecutive playoff appearances from 1977 to 1985.

No, a smile never left his face because his players, some fellow Ring of Honor members, shared stories and congratulations. There was Paul Westphal, then Dick Van Arsdale, Walter Davis, Gar Heard and Alvan Adams, and all shared a story and a laugh with their former coach.

“That to me was what was so nice,” MacLeod said. “I loved seeing those guys, and they mean a lot to me.”

When it was time for the moment to finally arrive, John took his seat at center court with his wife, Carol, at his side – just as she had been during his career and through 38 years of marriage. MacLeod’s son, Matt, and his daughter, Kathleen, were on the court, as well.

The lights dimmed, and the first highlight shown was of Heard draining “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World” in Game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics to force triple overtime.

The Suns lost that game and the series to the Celtics, but “The Shot” was the signature moment of those Suns teams that first found success in the 1970s and early ‘80s.

Longtime announcer Al McCoy hosted the halftime ceremony and shared his memories of MacLeod’s career with the Suns. Westphal and Adams then spoke before the Ring of Honor members were introduced.

The spotlight then shined on the rafters where the space now dedicated to the team’s winningest coach was unveiled.

But for all the excitement through the course of MacLeod’s evening, his family firmly believed that it was the recognition of what their husband and father meant to the Suns organization and the community of Phoenix that mattered most.

“It’s great to move forward from tonight knowing that this provided more of a legacy for him,” Matt MacLeod said. “This will be something for his grandchildren to always know that their grandfather, or great-grandfather, was a success as a person and in his profession.”

A lifetime of memories had been built around the game of basketball for the MacLeod family, and a lot of those memories came from their time in Phoenix.

Matt also played for John at Notre Dame for a couple of seasons. John’s daughter, Kathleen, recently coached girls junior varsity and freshman basketball at Xavier College Preparatory.

“I retired because I have my children now,” Kathleen said. “But when I was coaching it was always the greatest treat for me that at halftime of the games I coached, when the girls would run into the locker room, I would run up to the stands to get all the adjustments from my dad. Then I would go back in, make the adjustments and, in the second half, miraculously, the team would be better.”

Even one more coaching request from the Suns came in.

When Managing Partner Robert Sarver spoke about MacLeod to the close-knit group that had gathered for the pregame ceremony, he couldn’t help but ask the former tactician for a little help before Wednesday night’s game with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“We have a really big game tonight, too, so we may need to use you in the locker room,” Sarver said. “We might need you to draw up one of those plays you ran so often.”


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