MacLeod

John MacLeod is congratulated as he is inducted into the Phoenix Suns' Hall of Fame. | PHOTO COURTESY PHOENIX SUNS

New Albany native and Providence High School graduate John MacLeod, a long-time college and professional basketball coach, passed away Sunday.

MacLeod, who battled Alzheimer’s for over a decade, was 81.

Before a long and distinguished career in coaching, MacLeod was a four-year basketball and baseball player at Providence, from which he graduated in 1955. He also ran track for one year and broke a school record in the 440-yard run and the low hurdles.

“John was an outstanding talent. He was really a fierce competitor and a hustling athlete,” said long-time local broadcaster Charlie Jenkins, who was a JV player when McLeod was a senior at Providence. “John was always motivating his teammates. If you watched John in practice, he was always hustling and patting people on the back.”

MacLeod went on to win 10 varsity letters as an athlete at then-Bellarmine College. He graduated in 1959 before embarking on his coaching career.

MacLeod’s first coaching job was in 1963 at Smithville, a Monroe County high school where he coached basketball, baseball, cross country and served as athletic director. He went on to become an assistant basketball and head baseball coach at Cathedral in Indianapolis from 1965 to 1967 before breaking into the college ranks.

He coached collegiately at Oklahoma (1967-73) and Notre Dame (1991-99). In between he guided the Phoenix Suns (1973-87), Dallas Mavericks (1987-89) and New York Knicks (1990-91) of the NBA.

MacLeod is the winningest coach in Suns history, posting 579 victories. He guided Phoenix to the 1976 NBA Finals, where it lost to the Boston Celtics in six games. He also coached the Western Conference in the 1981 NBA All-Star Game.

“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,” the Suns said in a news release. “Coach MacLeod was a winner in every sense and will be dearly missed by our entire Phoenix Suns family.”

He spent a little more than two seasons with the Mavericks, guiding them to the 1988 Western Conference finals, where the Los Angeles Lakers defeated them 4-3.

MacLeod then guided the Knicks for one season before returning to the college game. He spent eight years at Notre Dame, earning Big East Coach of the Year honors in 1997.

MacLeod, who was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2005, posted a 707-657 record in his 18-year NBA career and a 196-193 mark with the Sooners and Irish.

He is survived by his wife, Carol, his son, Matt, and his daughter, Kathleen.