March 13, 2006
In talking about the college coaching landscape, I really miss the likes of John Thompson, Lou Carnesecca, Jimmy Valvano and Al McGuire. Those guys meant so much to college basketball because they had so much personality and really added to the sport.
Now comes word that another icon has decided to call it a day. Temple's John Chaney has decided to retire after 24 seasons running the Owls' program. Prior to his days at Temple, he had great success at Cheyney State, where he won the Division II national championship in 1978.
I spoke to Chaney when I heard the news of his retirement. He has always been a class act; and to show his dedication to his family, he wants to devote all his time to his ailing wife Jeanne, who will be undergoing surgery in the near future.
On and off the court, Chaney has been a real winner. What most people don't understand is that Temple has given kids a golden opportunity. He has taken some players who did not achieve a great deal on the scholastic level in high school. Temple has opened doors, and Chaney made sure those players utilized their educational opportunity in a positive way.
He was all about opportunity, not just about the matchup zone. It was about much more than winning basketball games; it was about winning in the game of life. Chaney always talked about taking responsibility for one's actions.
Over the years, there were some moments that he regretted. There was the John Calipari press conference after a heated Temple-Massachusetts game (when Calipari coached at UMass). Also, there was the scenario of sending in a player to commit a hard foul during a game against Saint Joseph's. Chaney was repentant in both situations, knowing he made a mistake. He showed passion, but sometimes he got a little carried away. He knew when he was wrong, and he stated it.
Chaney was always about his kids. He has a heart of gold and is all about his players. He is a big-time winner even though he didn't reach the Final Four. Some people offer the criteria of getting to the Final Four as imperative. While Chaney missed out on that accomplishment, his numbers are impressive enough. He took the Owls to five Elite Eight appearances (1988, '91, '93, 99, 2001). He was national coach of the year twice, and his teams made 17 NCAA trips in his 24 seasons with Temple.
You don't have to win a national title and cut down the nets to be a winner. My friends, he was recognized by his peers -- yes, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. He is a genuine Hall of Famer who has achieved so much at Temple. The Owls' program is not a situation where you have the opportunity to recruit the creme de la creme as some coaches do in other places.
Chaney is the perfect example of the coaching doctrine -- the key to success is getting the most out of your people. He did that throughout his career, coaching every possession, giving every ounce, every heartfelt effort in every moment of every game. College basketball and his players have been better for it.
Coach, enjoy the rest of your life. You have been an absolute treat to cover over the years.
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.