PHOENIX — John MacLeod, who had the longest tenure of any current National Basketball Assn. coach, was fired by the Phoenix Suns Thursday and replaced by the "original Sun," former player Dick Van Arsdale.
MacLeod, 49, was in his 14th season with the Suns and held a three-year contract that was to run through the 1987-88 season. His coaching stint with one club was the second-longest in NBA history, surpassed only by Red Auerbach's 16 years with the Boston Celtics. This season, MacLeod passed Al Attles, who spent 13 seasons plus 30 games with Golden State.
Van Arsdale, the first player selected by the Suns in the expansion draft when Phoenix gained a franchise in 1968, will take the job on an interim basis.
General Manager Jerry Colangelo said the coaching position will be reviewed at the end of the season.
"The Suns are in a negative cycle, and we need to break it," Colangelo said in a prepared statement at a news conference. "The team needs a change in direction and a change in attitude."
The Suns, whose record is 22-34, are in the midst of their third straight losing season and could miss the playoffs for the second consecutive year. MacLeod did not attend the news conference and was not available for comment.
"It was very hard, very difficult," Colangelo said of the decision to fire MacLeod. "I have the utmost respect for John as a coach and as a friend. I have been accused of being overly loyal, but if I'm accused of that, maybe that's not so bad."
The Suns have been hurt by injuries and by having five rookies on the roster this season.
This will be Van Arsdale's first coaching job. In recent seasons, he has been a part of the Suns' broadcast team.
"I do not anticipate any changes offensively," said Van Arsdale, whose twin brother, Tom, also played in the NBA. "But there will be some changes defensively. I will try to get the players to play harder. That, I think, has been a problem."
Van Arsdale said Colangelo approached him about the job earlier this week. He was drafted by the Suns from the New York Knicks where he had played three seasons. Van Arsdale played nine seasons with the Suns and finished with 15,079 points in 921 games.
MacLeod joined the Suns on March 30, 1973 and took Phoenix to the playoffs nine times. His best success was in 1975-76 when, after a 42-40 regular season record, the Suns advanced to the championship series, losing in six games to Boston.
MacLeod goes out with a career record of 579-543 in regular season play with the Suns. His teams were 37-44 in playoff games.