John MacLeod, winningest coach in Suns history, dies at 81

John MacLeod, the winningest coach in Suns history, died Sunday morning, the NBA team confirmed. He was 81.

MacLeod’s time with the Suns included nine playoff berths, topped by the so-called “Sunderella Suns” who reached the 1976 NBA Finals, the first in team history. The Celtics won the series, 4-2.

He compiled a Suns franchise-record 579 wins from 1973-87, the longest tenure for a head coach in team history.

He also coached the Mavericks and Knicks, finishing 707-657 overall as an NBA head coach, placing him 18th in league history.

Before taking over in Phoenix, MacLeod coached at Oklahoma (1967-73). He capped his head-coaching career on the collegiate level at Notre Dame (1991-99). He was 196-193 as a college coach. 

MacLeod was added to the Suns Ring of Honor in 2012.

The Suns released the following statement on Sunday:

“We are saddened today to learn of the passing of Suns Ring of Honor member and all-time winningest head coach, John MacLeod. A brilliant tactician on the sidelines, Coach MacLeod engineered the first great era of Phoenix Suns basketball, including as the catalyst of the 1975-76 ‘Sundarella Suns’ and their memorable run to the NBA Finals. 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.”