Penn, Drexel coaches fit Chaney's Philly mold

Updated: March 13, 2006, 11:09 PM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

During his retirement news conference Monday, longtime Temple coach John Chaney made sure to mention that he's a Philly guy.

Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw, in his extremely detailed, direct, honest and celebratory introduction, said that Chaney is the face of the school, the Atlantic 10 and Philadelphia basketball.

That's why, according to multiple sources, there is a strong urge for Temple to go with a Philly guy to fill one of the more unique jobs in college basketball. Temple is Philly's school, and if the Owls were back to being the "it" program in the area, not many players would get away.

That's why, according to multiple sources, the early favorites for the job are Penn's Fran Dunphy and Drexel's Bruiser Flint.

There has been some floating interest, sources say, in former Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins (Bradshaw was the AD at DePaul when Huggins' Bearcats were still a member of Conference USA), former 76ers coach Randy Ayers and former Owl Rick Brunson, whose hire would be akin to the women's program adding Dawn Staley as coach.

The early line, though, favors Dunphy and Flint. Dunphy played in the same La Salle infield as Bradshaw. He has been the peacemaker among the Philly Six, one of the most beloved coaches in the city, but would be making a distinct change in recruiting at Temple rather than for Penn. Flint, who played at Saint Joseph's and coached in the A-10 at UMass, also would be a natural. Flint is extremely popular with the masses in Philadelphia. Both would likely help ease the program's transition from Chaney.

Regardless of who gets the gig, Temple assistant Dan Leibovitz, who will coach the Owls against Akron in the first round of the NIT as Chaney tends to his ailing wife, likely will be retained.

Talk to anyone who has been around this program and they'll tell you Leibovitz has been its glue for years. He has had to be the sole recruiter on the road because Chaney hasn't gotten out much and other assistants have moved in and out of the program. Leibovitz has been the anchor at practice on the court while Chaney has been more of a professor -- one who might have taught his last class if he doesn't return in the postseason.

Whenever Chaney is officially done, the game will be missing one of its great characters -- and one of its impact coaches. UConn coach Jim Calhoun credited Chaney and former Georgetown coach John Thompson with giving opportunities to other African-American coaches, like former Calhoun assistants Dave Leitao and Karl Hobbs.

"He was a revolutionary," Calhoun said. "He was a feisty competitor. He was outspoken and was an advocate for so many urban kids. He could say things that a lot of us would have liked to. And he changed things for a lot of people. I still want his voice in college basketball."

Chaney's flair for storytelling, whether it was at his news conference Monday, or his Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2001, or even before 6 a.m. practices, is one of his gifts. His matchup zone will certainly be remembered. But more than anything, Chaney was old school. He would cross over into a discussion on politics, something that could get him into trouble with the mainstream, but he didn't care. He was honest, direct and, as Bradshaw said in his introduction, complicated yet simple.

Chaney helped get a new campus arena built and helped countless players who remain incredibly loyal to him. He was tough, but also gentle. He was quirky, but also unique. That's why replacing him at Temple will be such an enormous task.

While the Owls will move on and perhaps the infusion of a fresh face, even if it's one of the Philly Six, will help energize the program, Chaney is a coach who comes along once in a generation. That's what makes replacing him one of the toughest decisions Bradshaw will face, and one that might keep him thinking of Philadelphia, because few outside the city would understand the dynamics of this job.

Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com