Born on March 26, 1932, Al Bianchi was a native of Long Island City, NY, and served 23 seasons with the Suns as an assistant coach and a scout. He joined Suns Ring of Honor member John MacLeod’s coaching staff in 1976, spending 12 seasons in that role and jumped back to the bench to aid Frank Johnson after he took over for Scott Skiles midway through the 2001-02 season.
Bianchi served as general manager of the New York Knicks (1987-91). Prior to re-joining the Suns full-time, he spent two seasons as a regional scout for both the Suns and Miami Heat.
Bianchi began his pro coaching career in 1966 as an assistant with the expansion Chicago Bulls under former Suns head coach Johnny “Red” Kerr. He later served as the first head coach of the NBA’s Seattle SuperSonics (1967-69) and the ABA’s Washington Capitals-Virginia Squires (1969-76). With Virginia, he also served as general manager and signed future Hall of Famers Julius Erving and George Gervin to their first pro contracts. Bianchi was named the ABA Coach of the Year in 1971 after leading the Squires to an Eastern Division Championship.
As a player, Bianchi led Bowling Green University to a National Invitational Tournament berth in 1954. Following a two-year stint with the Army Medical Corps as a Med-Aidman, he played on the Army Basketball Team. He was drafted by the Minneapolis Lakers and began the first of his 10 professional seasons (1956-66) with the NBA’s Syracuse Nationals and Philadelphia 76ers.
Following his time with the Suns, he spent five seasons with the Golden State Warriors as a scout/consultant.
Bianchi was inducted into the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame, Inc. as a player by the New York City Athletic Club in 2007 and was also inducted into the Bowling Green University Hall of Fame and Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016.
Bianchi is survived by his wife Johnnie, and five children Shireen, Carol, Mark, Al Jr., and Lucien, Jennie Orr De Lopez, 9 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Leah.
Visitation will be held Sunday, November 3, 2019 from 4:00 – 6:00 PM at Whitney & Murphy Funeral Home, 4800 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix. Funeral Mass will be celebrated Monday, November 4, 2019 at 10:30 AM at Our Lady of Angels Church at the Franciscan Renewal Center, 5802 E. Lincoln Drive, Paradise Valley. Burial will follow at Paradise Memorial Gardens Cemetery, 9300 E. Shea Blvd., Scottsdale.
In lieu of flowers family suggests contributions to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund at PDJF.org in his name.
Larry C Kight
Shireen, it’s been a long time but I wanted to express my condolences to you and your family on the loss of your father.
Dan and Tina Foster
Sincere and deepest condolence’s to the family and especially to Luke. Tina was Luke’s babysitter when Al was Coach of the Virginia Squires. Al was always very kind to us. For many of us in Hampton Roads he was and remained an iconic figure, I’m sure he will be dearly missed by all.
Johnnie and family – so sorry for your loss. Please let us know if there is anything we can do.
Arlene & Joette
You are all in my thoughts and prayers. Shireen and David, I am so sorry for your loss. We love you!
Rufus and Beck Whitehurst
I taught at St. Mary’s High School in downtown Phoenix for almost 30 years. During that time, I was honored to have Lucien Bianchi as one of my students. We called him Luke. Good kid. I had the opportunity to meet Al at then Principal Bill Hermann’s house. Very nice Fella. Very personable. I am saddened, and I pray for the family to be well.
As a high school teenager in Virginia Beach, I lived in the same Baylake Pines neighborhood as Al. He hired me to mow his lawn and even babysit Luke a few times. But the other things he did impacted my life. Al took me to some Virginia Squires games and a few practices. This experience added to my love of sports which led me later to my current 40+ year career in pro sports. I truly appreciated the time Coach gave me and hope he knew what impact he had on me.
I want to express my condolences to the entire Bianchi family.
Such great memories of Coach Bianchi while with the Squires.
Irma Morrison Lovelace
Al was such a wonderful man , and I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to know his precious family and him since he married my darling cousin , Johnnie. Jerry and I loved our dinners with Al and Johnnie ..
I wish I could give Johnnie, Jennie, Jason , and his great kids a lot of hugs . I know they will miss him as he was such a charismatic, charming, kind, interesting , and force of a man. It was very fun to hear him share the extraordinary experiences of his amazing basketball career. Johnnie told me about the Bianchi family gatherings especially around the holidays and Al’s skill in cooking for everyone, I am not surprised that Al has a soft soft
In his heart for injured jockeys since he loved horse racing. And of course his adorable dog, Maggie , will be missing him. I just wish I had been able to spend more time with Al and his family who are all so very special and whom he was so proud of. You are are all in my prayers. Love, Irma from HOUSTON, Texas
Johnnie and family, how deeply sorry I am to hear of Al’s passing. My thoughts and prayers are with you!
Al Bianchi was a wonderful friend and mentor for me at so many times in my life, in the last 30 years. I am so fortunate to have known him for all these years and am really grieving. He welcomed me and my boys as family. I will remember our talks at Starbucks as he gave me Big Brother advice. He was always on my side as I encountered challenges. He was easy to love and appreciate because his heart was warm and caring. I miss him and will miss him for a very long time.
Al & Carol: I have fond memories of your Dad peacefully sitting on the Del Mar sand with his Walkman and racing form. He was a great man and I am forever humbled that I was briefly in his orbit. Thinking of you and your family during this sad time. With sympathy, Mary
Doug and Jane Moe, San Antonio, Texas.
We have fond memories of Al when he coached the Virginia Squires. We thought the world of him. My husband, Doug Moe, played for the Squires for two seasons, 1970-72 and thought Al was a great coach. He was a very charismatic man and so personable. I wish we had been able to attend the Virginia Squires reunion a few years ago in Norfolk. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family….cherish the memories.
Sorry to read about your fathers passing. Sending prayers to you and your family
Johnnie, Jennie, Jason and family, please accept our sincere condolences on your loss. Al was a lovely man and it was a pleasure to have known him. Much love,
Pat & Byron Hill
I became Friend and Golfing Buddy with Al when I met him at Del Mar Racetrack some 15 years ago. I knew who he was, and I was thrilled when he invited me to Golf one day. I am very Proud to have become his Friend. Johnie- Luc-Carrie- and the entire Family- my thoughts and Prayers are with you. Craig Rogers.
Carl H. Bundick
Please forward this to the Bianchi Family for me:
I recently saw Al’s obituary in the paper share with me by a friend.
I must extend my sympathies to your family.
I was a 13 year old when I first attended a Virginia Squires basketball game at Norfolk, Virginia.
Being a country boy, Al was so cool and commanding as the Squires coach.
I met Charlie Scott, Dr. J, Jumbo Jim Eakins, Fatty Taylor and many more of the players.
Those memories will last in my mind forever.
Thank you, Al Bianchi, for the memories.
I am now an attorney and cherish the memories as if they were created just yesterday.
Carl H. Bundick