Monday, March 13, 2006

Chaney retires from Temple after 24 seasons

"I have said all along that I would know when it would be time to step down and now is that time," Chaney said in a statement. "I want to thank Temple University, its fans and community for allowing me to do what I love for so long. It has never been a job for me, but a passion."

At the age of 74 and after 24 seasons that time has come.

John Chaney has 741 wins as a college coach, including a 516-252 record at Temple in which he won six Atlantic 10 conference titles. He was twice the national coach of the year and was selected Atlantic 10 coach of the year five times. He coached the Owls to 17 NCAA tournaments from 1984-2001.

He was a legendary coach who would play anyone, anywhere. He would sit his star players for the smallest things, including academics. One of his favorite subjects was education's role in helping the poor and disadvantaged, which he spoke at length about in his resignation speech today. But most people may only know Chaney from his stubborn and unique style of coaching, that often got him into trouble.

The most memorable, and most serious of these actions, was during the 2005 season in Temple's 63-56 loss to Saint Joseph's. Chaney sent in a goon -- his word, goon -- to send a message. He put in Nehemiah Ingram. He stood 6-feet-8, weighed 250 pounds and played almost never. He averaged 0.4 points and 0.0 assists per game, not that Chaney called on Ingram on to score or pass. He called on Ingram to get rough, and Ingram did -- fouling out in four minutes, including a technical foul. Ingram hit John Bryant from behind on a layup, and Bryant was later diagnosed with a broken arm. John Bryant was a senior and probably never played again.

There were other incidents. In 1984, Chaney grabbed George Washington coach Gerry Gimelstob by the shoulders at halftime of a game. In 1994, he had a heated exchange following a game against UMass in which he threatened to kill coach John Calipari. Chaney apologized and was suspended for a game. The two later became friends.

There was a positive side to Chaney and that is why he was at Temple for so long. He was a father figure for many of the players who often came from broken homes, bad schools, and violent neighboorhoods. He would have 5am practices, where he would frequently talk about life as much as he did about the intricacies of basketball. It was clear that his biggest goal was often to give poor kids a chance at an education and a better life. In his press conference today, he said "They just want to bounce the ball and dribble the ball, but I talk about things that are going to stay with them for the rest of their lives. Somewhere along the line, it will reverberate and they'll remember it."

His teams also did remarkably well considering he didn't have big time recruiting and he would choose the most difficult out-of-conference schedule that he could muster. About the only thing Chaney couldn't achieve was a trip to the Final Four; he was 0-for-5 in regional finals.

The Temple Owls showed signs of life this year. The Owls knocked off 3 teams in the top 25 and also had a convincing upset over the top-seeded George Washington in the Atlantic 10 tournament.

Maybe it was the fact that he is 74 years old, or that this is the fifth straight year that Temple has failed to make the NCAA tournament and received a NIT bid, or maybe he just felt that he wasn't making the impact on people's lifes the way he wanted to anymore---whatever the reason, John Chaney has made that decision to retire from his passion.

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