Kyle Macy: No Sophomore Jinx, 1982

[I always enjoyed watching Kyle Macy play in college at Kentucky and later in the NBA. His game was just so fundamentally sound and with purpose. No wasted motion, no mindless dribbling down the shot clock. But what else would you expect? Macy was the son of a high school coach in Peru, Indiana, about 80 miles north of Indianapolis. He learned, he came, he conquered. Seven NBA seasons, three in Italy. 

But it’s hard to find articles about Macy from back in the NBA day. But I got my fingers on one here from the March 1982 issue of Basketball Digest. It comes from Phil Elderkin, the then-dean of NBA reporters with the Christian Science Monitor. Enjoy!]


Kyle Macy, the second-year guard of the Phoenix Suns who looks fragile next to most of his contemporaries, actually plays tougher than his size. Among those who make their living ducking elbows in the National Basketball Association, that’s a little like being compared to Bob Cousy.

This isn’t to say that Macy has Cousy’s ability to create openings in the twinkling of an eye, where a moment before none seemed to exist, only that Kyle pours all of himself into every play, the same way Bob did. His consistency so far this year has been remarkable, and his outside shooting as dependable as anyone’s in the league.

Prior to the start of this season, Phoenix coach John McLeod, whose winning philosophy has always been based on keeping fresh personnel on the court by substituting frequently, decided to reverse that policy in regard to his backcourt.

Macy had such a fine rookie season last year that McLeod planned to divide up the 96 minutes of playing time available to his backcourt among three guards instead of using his usual four-man rotation.

That meant that even though Walter Davis and Dennis Johnson would continue to start for Phoenix, Kyle probably would get to play just as many minutes coming off the bench. Actually, that philosophy worked the first part of this season, except that one name was changed when Davis broke an elbow and Macy moved in as Johnson’s partner, with Dudley Bradley in the backup role.

“It is not unusual for a kid who played well in college to come into pro basketball and make a significant contribution his first year,” explained Suns assistant coach Al Bianchi. “It happens all the time, and it has happened to this team before with guys like Davis and Alvan Adams.

“But Kyle went beyond that, because no matter what the situation was last year, he never seemed rattled or out of place,” Bianchi continued. “We’d even set him up for the last shot in a clutch situation sometimes, and it wasn’t like we didn’t have other, more experienced players to whom we could have given the ball.

“But this kid is smart, fundamentally sound, has a knowledge of the game that goes well beyond his years, and the instincts not to force a shot when it isn’t there. I mean, we never ran into a situation last year when this kid wasn’t ready, and that’s amazing for a rookie. Looking back, I think we made a mistake by not playing him more than we did.”

Macy didn’t exactly burn up the league as a rookie, but he did contribute 8.1 points a game in only 18 minutes of action. Pumping away mostly from the outside, the Indiana native hit on 51 percent at his field goals and an exceptional 89.9 percent (107 of 119) from the free-throw line.

After 16 games this season, Macy was leading the Suns in minutes played (36), field-goal percentage (.568), free-throw percentage (.907), second in assists (4.3), and he was third in scoring at 16.0.

“He’s solid, a little bit methodical and a little bit unassuming in his play,” said McLeod. “But he’s so steady. He runs the offense, sets it up, takes the shot when it’s there, runs the break, and plays tough defense.”

Macy is more believable once you’ve mined his background and discovered he was All-Indiana, All-America, and All-Everything when he played under his father, Robert, at Peru High School. As a senior, he averaged nine rebounds, six assists, and 35 points a game, including a career-high 51.

“While I’ve heard stories about kids who played under their fathers getting everybody in the family uptight, including themselves, I never felt that way,” Macy says. “My dad and I have always been very close, and whenever I’ve had any kind of problem, I’ve always taken it either to him or my mother or both.

“I’ve always had this feeling my father already knew my potential as a basketball player and that he pushed me because that was what I needed at the time,” Kyle continued. “I learned from him, and I profited by it. And at the same time, it was fun. Then when scholarship offers began to come in my senior year, he told me that he felt I should make my own decision, and I did.”

Even though Macy finally settled on Purdue, the program wasn’t what he had expected when he got there. So, he transferred to the University of Kentucky after his freshman year, redshirted for a season, and later played on the Wildcats’ 1977-78 NCAA championship team. “You couldn’t have written a better script,” he said of his time in Lexington.

The Suns’ scouting staff was so impressed with Kyle that they made him the team’s No. 1 choice in the 1979 NBA draft as a future—the term used to describe players whose original class is graduating but still have athletic eligibility left. And Macy made Phoenix look good by starring for the gold medal-winning U.S. team in the 1979 Pan-Am Games, then being named Kentucky’s most valuable player in 1980, as well as a consensus All-America.

“I think what helped me most during my rookie year was the fact that McLeod played me in all 82 of the Suns’ games,” Kyle said. “Without that kind of continuity, you don’t improve much.

“For example, at first I found so many hands in my face when I got the ball in close that I had trouble getting my shot away. I solved that by simply extending my range a little and shooting quicker.”

Said Bianchi, in a kind of final tribute to Macy: “This kid is probably going to double his scoring average this year, and that’s what everyone will talk about. But as a former guard myself, who always worked at stopping the other guy, I’m really impressed with how much more defense Kyle is playing this season.”

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