Dick MacPherson, the last Patriots coach before first Bill Parcells and then Robert Kraft arrived and changed the fortunes of the franchise, died Tuesday in Syracuse, N.Y. He was 86.
MacPherson, a New England native, played college football at Springfield and got his first head-coaching job at the University of Massachusetts. He made his name at Syracuse University, resurrecting a declining program in the 1980s and restoring the Orange to national prominence. Between 1967 and MacPherson’s arrival in 1981, the Orange -- the undefeated national champion in 1959 -- made only one bowl trip. After two seasons of transition, MacPherson produced a winning team in 1983. By the time he left in 1990, he had a 66-46-4 record, the school’s second-winningest coach.
Known for his jocular personality and off-beat comments, he accepted the offer to coach the Patriots in 1991, a year after they had finished 1-15. The Pats improved to 6-10 in his first season, but fell back to 2-14 in 1992. MacPherson was fired after that season and replaced by Parcells, who had the team in the playoffs by 1994. Kraft purchaed the team in '94.
Although MacPherson’s coaching career ended with disappointment in New England, his success at the college level earned him a spot in the College Football Hall of Fame.
The cause of death was not disclosed.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.