Mac Engel

Former Mavericks coach who led team to Western Conference Finals has died

The first coach to lead the Dallas Mavericks on an extended postseason run has died; the son of former Mavs coach John MacLeod confirmed his father’s death on Sunday to the Associated Press.

MacLeod had been fighting Alzheimer’s disease for more than a decade; he was 81.

MacLeod is more known for coaching the Phoenix Suns from 1973 to ‘87. He replaced Dick Motta after the end of the 1986-’87 season as the coach of the Dallas Mavericks. Motta had retired, but he had helped to build a team that was stacked.

The Mavs had a team that consisted of Mark Aguirre, Rolando Blackman, James Donaldson, Brad Davis, Derek Harper, Sam Perkins, Roy Tarpley and Detlef Schrempf.

The team finished with 53 wins their first season under MacLeod, second in the Midwest Division. In the playoffs, the Mavs advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history.

The Mavs pushed Magic Johnson’s Showtime Los Angeles Lakers all the way to Game 7 in the West Finals, but lost 117-102 in the final game.

Unfortunately, the Mavs team was loaded with talent, and personality issues. Aguirre was not exactly easy to deal with; the team’s most talented player, Tarpley, had major addiction issues.

The Mavericks would not reach the West Finals again until 2003.

Following the team’s first appearance in the West Finals under MacLeod, the club finished under .500 the next season. The Mavs began their third year under MacLeod at 5-6, and he was replaced by Richie Adubato after 11 games on Nov. 29, 1989.

Shortly after leaving the Mavs, MacLeod actually sued the franchise because, he claimed, they had not paid him money due him.

MacLeod was 96-79 in his tenure with the Mavericks; he was 707-657 in 18 seasons as an NBA head coach.

MacLeod also was the head coach of the New York Knicks, Oklahoma Sooners and Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

The Dallas Mavericks issued the following statement: “We are saddened to hear of the passing of former Mavericks head coach John MacLeod. MacLeod led the team during some of best Mavericks moments including Moody Madness, its first-ever seven game series and its first-ever Conference Finals in 1988. We send our deepest condolences to his wife Carol, daughter Kathleen and son Matt. He will be missed by the entire Mavericks organization.”

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