Tuesday, March 14, 2006

goodbye, coach


Brilliant, grumpy, profane, passionate, outspoken, temperamental, caring, hilarious, wise and - human. The legendary John Chaney, longtime coach of the men's basketball team at Temple University, retired on Monday.

Those who know me know that I'm a college basketball fan. Those who know me well know that my team has always been Temple. A big reason for this? Coach John Chaney, a Hall of Famer, who, at age 74, decided to retire on Monday. He will be sorely missed - and not just for his basketball genius.

I'll share a few more of my thoughts on Chaney and Temple basketball in a future post (which I'm sure will be of interest only to me and nobody else around here). For now, I'll let some of the columnists on the different newswires do the talking.

Goodbye, Coach. Thanks for the memories.

***
Chaney's coaching voyage was rough sailing at times - but it's a journey worth saluting and remembering

Wednesday, March 15, 2006
By Paul Zeise, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

John Chaney never won a Division I national championship and never made it to the Final Four. The last five seasons, his Temple Owls haven't made it into the NCAA tournament.

But Chaney, who retired Monday, should be remembered as one of the greatest coaches of all time.

His name should be mentioned with the Dean Smiths and John Woodens because what he accomplished, given where he came from and what he had to overcome, is as impressive as anyone's list of national titles and Final Four appearances.

He also had a lot of success on the court at Temple, which isn't the easiest place to build a winning program. He's a Hall of Famer because he has won 741 games as a coach, including 516 at Temple. The Owls went to 17 NCAA tournaments and five regional finals in Chaney's first 19 seasons there.

But his wins and losses are only a part of what makes Chaney such an icon.

He grew up in extreme poverty in Jacksonville, Florida, and spent his high school years in a tough Philadelphia neighborhood. He survived in large part because of basketball, then he had to overcome racism during his early years as a coach in order to land at a Division I school. Temple was the only school willing to give him a chance.

Chaney always approached his job with burning passion, as if he were on a mission. He stuck to his values and principles, the foundation of which are honesty and integrity.

Chaney never has forgotten where he came from and never worried about taking a stand - no matter how unpopular or the consequences - against injustice. He believed his most important job was to give kids, many from tough circumstances, an opportunity to grow into young men. He believed in every kid, even the ones many others quit on, and brought them along with his old-school principles of discipline, tough love and accountability.

As good as he was at giving kids a kick in the rear to motivate them, his real genius was his ability to know when to back off, give them a hug and encourage them to keep working hard.

Chaney often was criticized for speaking out against rules like the NCAA's Proposition 48, which clearly affected poor and urban kids, but he backed it up with results.

He took kids who didn't meet academic requirements and pushed and mentored them all the way to graduation.

He believed kids shouldn't be penalized because they are too poor to live in a good school district.

He wanted kids with a similar background to his, kids who weren't born with silver spoons in their mouths, to be able to use their athletic talents to get a better life.

Chaney wasn't without his warts, and, unfortunately for some, his warts are all they will remember.

There was the outburst against then-Massachussets coach John Calipari in 1994, the goon incident with St. Joseph's last year and several other well-publicized outbursts.

The difference between Chaney and others of his ilk, is that he didn't have a "God complex" and knew when he crossed the line. That's why he was often tearful, contrite, open and honest in the aftermath. You knew his apology was genuine and heartfelt.

Todd Jones, a columnist for the Columbus Dispatch, captured it best when he wrote "Those episodes shouldn't define Chaney, nor should they be whitewashed from his legacy. That's because his career and life - when he was both right and wrong - was about honesty.

"So recall his faults, just as he would want."

College basketball lost a great coach Monday.

It lost a better man.

5 comments:

  1. Well, Mr. John Chaney sounds like a wonderful man. I'm sorry for the loss to the game! Dingobear, will you still be sticking beside Temple?

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  2. I regret I never got the chance to go to Philadelphia and see John Chaney coach in person.

    Temple is still my team but whether or not it'll stay that way depends, in large part, on who the next coach is. John Chaney is the face of Temple University, and I only hope his replacement will work as hard as he did at instilling good on North Broad Street.

    Is there a particular team you root for, -c?

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  3. Well, I'm quite the fan of The don't-know-much-about-the-game-but-like-to-play-it Slackers of the South.

    I think they're playing poorly as of recently, but they've got the biggest smiles in the league!

    ...I'll try to keep an eye out for your Temple U kids, though:)

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  4. Felix, as you know I know squat about basketball, but this John Chaney sounds like one helluva guy. I think we might be related...

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  5. Haha, gotcha, -c. As for Temple kids, I will say you do have one on your Lakers - Aaron McKie, who wears #2 - though I think he's been injured most of this year and, in his mid-30's, I guess he's no kid anymore!

    Sophie, haha!

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