Longtime Temple coach wants to stay awhile
PHILADELPHIA -- As Hall of Fame coach John Chaney enters his 24th season at Temple, university president David Adamany says no school official has told Chaney he won't be back for a 25th -- and that a contract renewal would be a "mutual decision."
According to the coach, and his players, the future is up to Chaney.
"I'm 73," Chaney said. "I'll stay as long as my health is good and that's just the truth."
"Honestly, I don't think it's his last year," senior forward Antywane Robinson said. "Coach Chaney will quit when he wants to quit. He'll have to get rolled out of here before he quits. As long as coach Chaney is alive and can yell at me from 90 feet away, he'll be here for a couple of years."
"When I made my decision to go to Temple, they asked me the same question -- and I still feel like coach will be here and do this until he dies," said sophomore guard Mark Tyndale.
Last February, Chaney agreed to suspend himself for five games after Nehemiah Ingram's hard foul on Saint Joseph's John Bryant resulted in Bryant's breaking his arm. Chaney was upset about what he perceived were illegal screens being set by the Hawks.
In a postgame news conference following the Feb. 22 game at Temple, Chaney said he was "sending a message. And I'm going to send in what we used to do years ago -- send in the goons. That's what I'm going to do. That's what you used to do."
Chaney returned to coach the Owls in their postseason NIT first-round loss to Virginia Tech. Soon after, the university announced he would return for the 2005-06 season -- and Adamany, in an e-mail response on Wednesday, intimated that Chaney's stay could last beyond this season.
On leadership in this country after Hurricane Katrina: "It's amazing to me that we don't seem to learn lessons when mistakes are made. ... Words that are spoken are simply lies and very few of us will call it like it is. ... Many of our leaders fail us. They find themselves saying things to make people feel good and many people fall for it."
On why he practices early in the morning: "There was no ideal time when I was starting out. The only ideal time I could find was 5 o'clock in the morning. They get here and get out by eight and don't miss classes. A lot of coaches have picked up on it. Some of the kids don't make it. Sometimes we lose kids because of our rigorous schedule."
On why he chose a matchup zone: "When I came along, everybody in the city played a zone ... I always felt like I could perfect it and tweak it. I took a little bit of the zones I learned from and changed the face of the zone depending on what you had. ... It's served us well but we haven't been able to get anyone who could shoot the ball. We lead the country in [fewest] turnovers and more or less in scoring defense, but we can't score baskets, so I've got to get a couple of shooters."
On the new NBA draft age minimum: "Basketball is 85 percent Black -- poor Black and poor youngsters -- and we're almost legislating against them and forcing them to get a degree. [Pete] Sampras and [Andre] Agassi didn't go to college. Baseball and hockey guys don't go to college [all the time]. Just like in business, some youngsters are highly talented enough. You can't come up with a an arbitrary figure like 19 years old and say that person has to go to college."
On his biggest hoops regret: "That of the times we were in the NCAA Tournament, that the team I thought had the best chance [the 2000 Owls who were a No. 2 seed and finished 27-6] didn't get to the Final Four. We lost to a team [Seton Hall] that wasn't even close [to Temple in skill] but just got hot and couldn't miss."
"John Chaney remains Temple's basketball coach," he said. "Periodically the University, through the Athletic Director and/or me, sit down with John, as we do with other coaches, to talk about contract renewal. This is always a mutual decision based on John's view of his own career plans and the direction of Temple's athletic program. As we do periodically, we'll sit down with John this year to inquire of his plans and share our own with him. Bottom line: no one in the administration has told John Chaney that this is his last year. That's not the way we do things at Temple -- in athletics or elsewhere."
That foots with Chaney's understanding of the situation.
"No one has ever mentioned to me that they were anxious to see me go," Chaney said. "There was a problem last year when I asked one of my players to go in and take a hard foul, which he did, in one of the games against Saint Joe's. It was called a common foul. The same people in the city who, year in and year out, get on the programs and get to the newspapers asked for me to be fired. But nobody has mentioned that to me; neither the president or anybody else has said anything to me about that."
Chaney said he suspended himself because he felt he had gone "too far in talking to the media about the incident. It would have gone away if I had not used some of the words that I used to the media and the media [hadn't] acted as if they had never heard them before. They felt I had suggested to intentionally send in someone to hurt somebody."
Chaney said he has moved on from the incident. He eventually apologized to Bryant and his family. Both Chaney and Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli have said the rift caused by that game is in the past; the two met two weeks ago in Philadelphia, at the urging of league and Big Five officials, and last weekend, Chaney coached a group of local Coaches vs. Cancer donors against a team of Philadelphia D-I coaches, which included Martelli.
"I was sending them in [the business men who had donated money] to grab ahold of [Ed] Pinkney [of Villanova] and Jay [Wright of Villanova] and Martelli. I wanted to send them to the foul line and everybody got a big kick out of that," Chaney said.
There doesn't seem to be any tension left between the two teams, either. Robinson said he, Mardy Collins and Tyndale played ball throughout the summer at Saint Joseph's with the Hawk players without issue.
"[Last spring when calls were made for Chaney to be fired], that hurt me," Robinson said. "I thought, 'How can you do this to a man who has done so much for this university?' It still hurts to this day."
That kind of player loyalty to Chaney runs deep. When Chaney was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001, busloads of Temple students made the trip and were in attendance in Springfield, Mass., flanked by a host of former players including the NBA's Eddie Jones. Jones, Aaron McKie and Rick Brunson remain close to Chaney, even after lengthy NBA careers.
"He doesn't lie," Tyndale said. "He doesn't sugarcoat. Everything he says, he backs up 100 percent. Coach bounced back from [the goon incident]. Coach told us back then, 'Don't watch TV, or read any papers.' He put that behind us. He never talked about the situation and he never talked bad about Saint Joe's or Coach Martelli.
"All summer I kept hearing negative talk about him," Tyndale said. "I think he's staying because this is his passion. He focuses on basketball. He doesn't travel. He just wants to teach basketball. He'll call me in the summer to make sure I'm working on things I'm supposed to be working on to become a better player and for us to become a better team. Basketball is his life. All he does is talk basketball, basketball, basketball."
Chaney said he didn't do much recruiting over the summer, which isn't abnormal for him, because he usually doesn't hit the major recruiting stops on the summer circuit. But this week he was with assistant coach Dan Leibovitz in New York and New Jersey and he has a rare trip to California planned on Thursday to visit with a recruit in L.A.
Chaney's willingness to go across the country sent a strong message to his assistants who are trying to recruit to a program where opponents are likely to use Chaney's unknown long-term fate against the Owls.
"It's very easy," Chaney said of what his assistants should say to recruits. "Tell them, 'He's going to be there as long as he can get good kids and as long as his health is good. Tell them the truth.' My situation is very much like Joe Paterno's [at Penn State]. When we go out to recruit, there are other coaches saying, 'Don't go to Temple because the man is too old and he's not going to be there. He's not going to be there when you graduate. He's in the Hall of Fame, what more does he want to accomplish?'
"I'm inspired right now with the new kids," Chaney said. "You find yourself filled with anxiety at this time of the year. You want to do things to put in this and that. You feel a bit like you're behind bars since you can't [practice] until Oct. 15. I'm pretty anxious to get started."
Even though he insists he'll be around for awhile longer, Chaney does have a succession plan in mind. He said his successor has to be someone who has either played or coached at Temple.
Chaney said he would give the administration a list to work with and it would definitely include Leibovitz, who coached the Owls during Chaney's suspension last season, as well as longtime assistant and current Portland Trail Blazers assistant Dean Demopoulos. One of his former players, Mark Macon, currently is on the Temple staff. Brunson, too, could be a coaching candidate once his pro career is done.
"This is a very difficult metropolitan school in terms of recruiting athletes," Chaney said. "You're recruiting for a school in the inner city like Cincinnati and USC. You've got to bring in a guy who is tough. Dan Leibovitz does a tremendous job of recruiting these youngsters that come here. I hope they're going to stay the course. Nobody [but someone from Temple] could handle this. Nobody else can come here and would know the nature of this giant metropolitan school. This is a very, very tough sell and it's going to be tougher and you have to have someone with my philosophy -- and anyone outside of that, you'll find it will be a problem."
That type of honesty should be expected. Chaney rarely has had a problem expressing his views. He has been one of the game's most outspoken coaches on issues of race, politics, poverty, education and basketball. Just last year, Chaney took on the state of Ohio for helping President Bush win reelection, saying at the time, "It's not the people that I hate, it's what they did that I hate," according to the Associated Press.
"I always get involved in controversial situations, some I provoke and some I don't," said Chaney, who has had well-publicized confrontations with former UMass and George Washington coaches during his tenure at Temple. "Everyone here has been very supportive. I never had anyone tell me to cease and desist. The university took hits when I made statements about Ohio and the political situation in our country. I'm always saying things and I'm a controversial person. I'll make statements, some of which are not good and I'll apologize if I feel, once I revisit them, that they weren't good. Some of them I won't apologize for because I feel strongly about them."
The Owls last went to the NCAA Tournament in 2001, when they made the Elite Eight for the fifth time in Chaney's 23 seasons at the school. Chaney said the calls for him to be fired are from frustrated fans who aren't used to seeing the Owls losing.
"They don't think about the fact that I'm playing the toughest schedule in the country every year," Chaney said. "These are Temple people who love Temple but often feel that from losses you should make a change. They don't care whom you change to or from. They just feel there is a need to change. That tells me that I've been here too long. But as long as I get kids who will listen and kids who are good kids that want to be successful and want to graduate from college, then I think I'll stay around."
It's the kids that have kept Chaney around this long -- and could keep him around awhile longer.
"When I leave here," Chaney said. "I'd like to leave with everyone saying, 'He was the guy that wanted to make sure the poor -- everybody that didn't have -- was educated.'"
Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com.