CHICAGO -- Notre Dame, turned down by some of the country's top college basketball coaches, will turn to the pros and has decided on NBA veteran coach John MacLeod of the New York Knicks as the successor to Digger Phelps.
Notre Dame officials declined to return telephone calls yesterday, but SMU coach John Shumate, who had inteviewed with the Irish, said Notre Dame athletic director Dick Rosenthal telephoned him saying MacLeod had the job.
MacLeod, whose hapless Knicks were ousted from the NBA playoffs in three games by the Chicago Bulls, refused to comment, but scheduled a news conference today to announce his future plans. Other sources confirmed the choice.
MacLeod, 53, took over the Knicks 15 games into the season. Unable to instill his system in a training camp, the Knicks reeled to a 32-35 record under him before the playoffs.
He had only a one-year contract and was expected to lose his job after the firing of his friend, Knicks general manager Al Bianchi, two months ago.
It would have been the third time he was fired in his 18-year career. He had coached at Dallas and Phoenix. Yet, his 707-657 record makes him the eighth-winningest NBA coach.
"In the NBA, we all know there are certain vagaries and vicissitudes," said Dick Versace, who has coached on both the college and professional level.
"John has had a lot of jobs, and he's done a first-class job wherever he's been. He's a fine basketball coach, an extremely likeable guy and a first-class guy."
Though he hasn't coached in college for 18 years, MacLeod, an Indiana native who went to tiny Bellarmine College in Louisville, is widely credited with the turnaround of the Oklahoma program.