John MacLeod, who knows all about building programs, has taken on the chore of revitalizing the New York Knicks.
MacLeod ran his first practice as the Knicks' coach Monday, just hours after Stu Jackson was fired. The Knicks are 7-8, just 3-5 at home, and have been criticized for a lack of discipline and spark on the court."I will be positive and have a realistic approach," said MacLeod, who ranks fifth among active NBA coaches with 675 victories.
He coached the Phoenix Suns for 14 seasons, taking them from the bottom of the Western Conference to the NBA semifinals four times and to the NBA Finals in 1976. He coached the Dallas Mavericks for three years, but was fired early last season.
The 53-year-old MacLeod also had a 70-37 record at Oklahoma, turning the Sooners from a Big Eight also-ran into a championship contender.
"I will emphasize the positive and stay away from the negative," he said. "But I will not say things are honky-dory when they are not."
Things were not going well for the Knicks this year under Jackson, who never had been a head coach on any level. Their struggles at home only magnified the overall problems on a team with few outstanding outside shooters and not enough unselfish players.
"It just didn't work out as well as we thought," general manager Al Bianchi said. "I'm not going to go into the specifics or step on anybody."
Jackson was unavailable for comment, but Bianchi said he thought Jackson "was surprised a little bit ... in those situations, when somebody tells you that, there isn't much you have to say. You thank the person for the opportunity. You don't like it, of course."
Bianchi knows the experience of being fired first-hand. It happened to him in 1975 with the Virginia Squires of the ABA.
He then joined the Suns as MacLeod's assistant coach for 11 seasons.
When Bianchi was seeking a coach to replace Rick Pitino after the 1988-89 season, he contacted MacLeod.
Bianchi turned to MacLeod now because MacLeod's strengths are exactly what the GM perceives the Knicks lack most.