His college basketball career eventually led him, probably several years too late, but certainly in time for him to appreciate the experience, to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. It is as good as it gets in the business of John Chaney, and that honor has been attached to him for exactly two decades of his life and for all eternity beyond.
Chaney’s teams at Temple and Cheyney State have won 741 games, eight Atlantic Conference 10 regular season championships, six A-10 tournament titles, March 23 Madness games and the 1978 Division II National Championship. The Owls have reached the Top Eight four times and were number one in the Associated Press poll during the 1988 season.
He had spent a decade playing minor league basketball because jobs weren’t plentiful for African American men in the NBA in the mid-1950s. It took him two decades of domination in high school coaching and the D-II before he got his chance at the big time in college basketball at 50, because that was how it was for a black coach at that time. But he made the people who hired him look brilliant.
So many, however, remember Chaney for just one music video.
It was all over the internet immediately after the news broke on Friday afternoon that Chaney had passed away just eight days after his 89th birthday. The moment is part of his legacy, for better or for worse.
For the best: It showed the Chaney who would fight for what he believed in, whether it was contempt for an opposing coach trying to make match referees work or the education he wanted his players to adopt. For the worst: it showed the Chaney whose competitive temperament periodically replaced his best instincts.
It was in February 1994 that Chaney interrupted John Calipari’s press conference – after the Calipari team in Massachusetts beat Chaney’s Owls by one point – and shouted, “I’m going to kill you! ‘Remember that. When I see you, I’m going to kick. your ass! “More than a dishonest reporter would call this a threat to kill Calipari. Even if told accurately, however, as a warning Chaney would fight Calipari and expect to win, it was not the kind of conduct one would demand of a college coach.
It was not Chaney’s first transgression. A decade earlier he had had an altercation with George Washington’s coach Gerry Gimelstob, in which witnesses described Chaney as grabbing Gimelstob by the throat. Two decades later, he was angry at the lack of foul calls against Philadelphia rival Saint Joseph’s and admittedly ordered one of his players to enter the game and start fouling. “Serious”. An SJU player ended up with a broken arm.
What kind of coach can have these three episodes on their CV and still be revered for their humanity and dignity? Only the best, and Chaney certainly was. It wasn’t just his ability to identify talents or overlooked gifts to convince elite prospects with many options and no Philly roots – Mark Macon of Michigan, Mark Karcher of Baltimore, Rick Brunson of Massachusetts – to choose. a no-frills university. city campus. It was more than his talent to get players to outdo their opponents with bigger names and bigger budgets.
Temple University Official Twitter Account declared on his death, “The greatness and wisdom of John Chaney extends far beyond the basketball court. For generations of Owls, he has been a wise advisor, a dedicated teacher and a passionate leader.”
He was revered by his players and those who worked with him. On Chaney’s birthday, Larry Dougherty, Temple’s sports information director posted on facebook, “Happy 89th birthday to one of the greatest men I have ever met.” Mike Vreeswyk, the small forward on Chaney’s biggest team, the 1988 Owls, posted the same day: “Almost everything I have I owe him.” Mark Whicker, who wrote a column for the Philadelphia Daily News before moving to California in 1987, called him “the best man I have ever met in basketball and possibly elsewhere.”
Although their rivalry sizzled in the 1990s and reached its peak (or lowest, depending on your point of view) this Sunday afternoon in Philadelphia, Chaney and Calipari became friends afterward, often mockingly mockingly. their curious origin story. Calipari coached just two more seasons in the Atlantic 10 before trying his luck in the NBA. When that didn’t work and Calipari returned to college training in Memphis, Chaney agreed to visit him for his opener as Tigers coach.
“Coach Chaney and I have fought in every game we’ve been in – as everyone knows, sometimes literally – but in the end he was my friend,” Calipari posted on Twitter. “Throughout my career we have been talking about basketball and life. I will miss those talks and I will be my friend.”
So maybe it’s okay to remember John Chaney during this moment, as long as one understands what it was, why it happened, how the men involved handled it and how it didn’t. has not begun to grasp the scale of Chaney’s accomplishments and character.
“I tried to think about John Chaney, but it turns out to be impossible,” his longtime Saint Joe’s rival, Phil Martelli, written on twitter. “All the clichés could never give him his due: Hall of Fame, never to be duplicated, once in a lifetime, uniqueness.”
Maybe it wasn’t impossible, then. If we want to be brief, this captures John Chaney particularly well. If we want to be complete, well, it’s a book. A hell of a book.