PHOENIX — No head coach has won more games for the Phoenix Suns than John MacLeod.
Thanks to his winning ways, the fast-paced brand of basketball he preached long before anybody had heard of “Seven Seconds or Less” and the way he connected with his players, MacLeod became the 13th member of the Suns’ Ring of Honor at halftime of tonight’s game against the Thunder.
MacLeod, 74, coached the Suns from 1973-87 and compiled a 579-543 record while guiding the Suns to nine playoff appearances, including the famed 1976 Sunderella Suns’ run to the NBA Finals. Only five coaches have won more games with one franchise.
You could tell how much MacLeod meant to his players as many showed up for the honor, from Paul Westphal to Gar Heard.
As MacLeod joined Westphal and Cotton Fitzsimmons as the only Suns coaches in the RoH, he was joined on the court by fellow Ring of Honor members Connie Hawkins, Dick Van Arsdale, Alvan Adams, Westphal, Walter Davis, Tom Chambers, Joe Proski (who Seth Pollack astutely pointed out now looks like Santa Claus), Dan Majerle, Cotton Fitzsimmon’s wife JoAnn, and Jerry Colangelo as well as Suns owner Robert Sarver, who got some light boos as MC Al McCoy quickly changed the subject.
Westphal spoke to the crowd and said MacLeod’s “work ethic was unbelievable. He’s a tireless worker. His answer to everything is: ‘We’ve got to work harder.’ Everything was work and team play.”
Westphal added that the standard MacLeod set for teamwork and professionalism has carried over to future generations of Suns basketball.
“There’s not a better coach out there than John MacLeod,” Westphal said.
Adams, the Suns great who played for MacLeod at the University of Oklahoma before both joined the Suns, also lauded his long-time coach.
“That same intensity I first saw at Oklahoma was there at every practice and every game,” said Adams, who was first recruited by MacLeod as a raw but talented 15-year-old. “We were always prepared. John’s teams were always prepared.”
Suns greats also filmed video messages for MacLeod that were shown throughout the game.
In one Proski compared MacLeod to legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi and in another Charles Barkley said, “It’s an honor to be in the Ring of Honor with you.”