Longtime Temple coach Chaney retires
PHILADELPHIA -- John Chaney's scowl was gone, the dark, deep-set eyes concealed behind sunglasses.
NCAA Tournament Résumé
The raspy voice, which has boomed to the upper deck of many arenas, was hushed. It was perhaps one final, subdued look at a Hall of Fame basketball coach who realized it was time to leave Temple.
This was indeed a different Chaney.
"Excuse me while I disappear," Chaney said, his shirt unbuttoned and his unraveled tie draped over his shoulders.
With those words, Chaney left the podium Monday and retired after 24 seasons at Temple, ending a 34-year coaching career of fatherly off-the-court mentoring that was sometimes overshadowed by a temper that got the better of him.
"It's always a very traumatic time, but it is time," Chaney said. "Temple gave me a chance to make my own decision and that's the great thing about it. Right now I'm faced with another problem with my wife, so it's the right time to go."
Chaney will not coach the Owls' opening NIT game against Akron on Tuesday night because his wife was scheduled to undergo a procedure for an undisclosed health problem. Assistant Dan Leibovitz will take his place, and it was not clear if Chaney would return to the bench if Temple won.
The 74-year-old Chaney guided Temple to 17 NCAA Tournament appearances, including five NCAA regional finals -- where he went 0-5 and never made the Final Four. He was twice named national coach of the year and entered the Hall of Fame in 2001.
This season, Temple (17-14) made the NIT for the fifth straight season, a dramatic decline for a team that was once an NCAA Tournament regular.
In typical Chaney fashion, Monday was no ordinary goodbye. Flanked by former and current players and coaches, Chaney wove his life story around amusing anecdotes about his friend Bill Cosby, a playful threat to slap the mayor, and several pokes at school administration.
Chaney also wiped away tears from behind his sunglasses and talked at length about a favorite subject -- education's role in helping the poor and disadvantaged.
"I'm going to be mean and ornery when I see something that's wrong and I'm going to try and right it," Chaney said.
Chaney has 741 wins as a college coach, including a 516-252 record at Temple, where he won seven Atlantic 10 conference titles. His teams did remarkably well considering Chaney couldn't recruit the high school All-Americans who filled the rosters of the power conferences.
Only Bob Knight, Eddie Sutton, Lute Olson, and Mike Krzyzewski are the active coaches with more career victories.
Chaney was a commanding figure on the court -- restless, cranky, his otherwise natty clothes in shambles by the end of the game. Often, as he exhorted his team, he put himself in situations he later regretted.
Last season, Chaney seemed on his way out. He inserted a player he called a "goon" into a game against Saint Joseph's for the sole purpose of committing hard fouls because he thought the Hawks were using illegal screens. A Saint Joseph's player, John Bryant, ended up with a broken arm after being knocked out of the air. Chaney later apologized and was suspended for five games.
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.
While Temple president David Adamany joked Chaney "gave me heartburn every three or four months," Owls guard Mardy Collins said it was a mistake to focus on Chaney's outrageous actions.
"Those little incidents don't measure up to the things he's done here at Temple," Collins said.
Collins has one last chance to give Chaney a championship, even if it is the NIT and Leibovitz is coaching. Leibovitz, who's spent 10 years as a Temple assistant and coached the Owls last season during Chaney's suspension, wished Chaney could have had a better send-off.
"It's just regretful we couldn't get to the tournament one last time," he said. "We put everything we had into it. I may never forgive myself for not getting him back in."
Leibovitz expects to be a candidate for the vacancy, and Chaney said he would submit names to athletic director Bill Bradshaw for consideration. While Chaney said the next coach needed to be a "Temple person," Bradshaw said he would take his time and not rule out any candidate, especially with the NCAA Tournament starting this week.
Whoever is hired should expect to stick around for a while -- the Owls have only had four coaches since 1942 and two are in the Hall of Fame.
Chaney, who took Cheyney State in suburban Philadelphia to the 1978 Division II national championship, arrived at Temple before the 1982-83 season.
He was a father figure for players who often came to Temple from broken homes, violent neighborhoods and bad schools. With notoriously early morning practices, Chaney talked about life nearly as much as he taught the intricacies of his matchup zone defense. He frequently said his biggest goal simply was to give poor kids a chance to get an education.
"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," Chaney said. "Somewhere along the line, it will reverberate and they'll remember it."
Chaney was 50 when Temple hired him on a promise to make the program and the university nationally recognized. He refused to load his schedules with easy teams, and instead traveled to hostile courts to play teams supposedly brimming with talent.
He showed flashes this season that his Owls could still play with the nation's elite, knocking off three Top 25 teams, including an upset over top-seeded George Washington last week in the Atlantic 10 tournament.
Now all Chaney wants to do is eat peanuts, drink beer and tell some embellished stories.
And maybe sleep in.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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