Dick Vitale on the Chaney situation
March 1, 2005
I spoke to Temple coach John Chaney on Monday — and let me tell you, he's contrite. He knows he was wrong to employ a "goon" strategy and to use the "goon" terminology.
When Chaney sent Nehemiah Ingram into the recent Saint Joseph's game, the Hall of Fame coach said what he wanted was aggressive and physical play — but in no way did he intend for Saint Joseph's senior John Bryant to be injured. A hard foul by Ingram in Tuesday's game broke Bryant's arm and ended his season.
Chaney has done so many great things for college basketball, and people should remember and appreciate that. He plans to come back and continue to do good for the sport.
He's very sorry for what happened as a result of his actions. Again, those actions were reprehensible — to utilize Chaney's term — but I think Chaney understands his mistake.
I don't believe Chaney should be fired — just remember how much he has done for the game. I realize that many coaches in his situation would have been dismissed (especially those who don't have Hall of Fame credentials). But Chaney deserves a chance to return to the sidelines.
At first, Temple's administration and the Atlantic 10 saw fit to give him only a three-game suspension (for the rest of the regular season). That, my friends, was a belated Christmas gift. But as it turns out, Chaney's suspension will now include the A-10 tourney. I feel that's a more appropriate discipline — and Chaney himself (not the school or the league) is the one who decided to lengthen it.
Coaches often have asked players to enter a game to provide a physical presence and to play aggressive defense. But Chaney's actions went well beyond that. To insert a player into a game to fling elbows and knock down any opposing player who gets in his way — and that's basically what transpired — is totally uncalled for.
It's also sad that John would refer to one of his own players as a "goon." Can you imagine Ingram now having to carry that moniker with him wherever he goes? It's humiliating and embarrassing, and clearly it isn't in the textbook that deals with coaching student-athletes.
Over the years, Chaney has done a masterful job at Temple. You don't get in the Hall of Fame without winning basketball games and doing a first-class coaching job. What I've admired most about Chaney is his ability to be efficient in his situation, as he doesn't have the resources of some of the Goliaths of the sport.
He has been a father figure for so many players. He has helped develop many young men, and he has been so special to Temple University.
That's why this situation surprises me. I supported Chaney vigorously when he argued against giving kids a Prop 48 label. When the Prop 48 system was in effect, student-athletes who couldn't qualify academically were stuck with that Prop 48 label, as if they didn't belong. What about Ingram and the label he has now?
Coaches often have asked players to enter a game to provide a physical presence and to play aggressive defense. But Chaney's actions went well beyond that.
Chaney's accomplishments are outstanding, and I campaigned for him to get into the Hall of Fame.
However, he went over the line. Let's hope the genuine, caring and compassionate side of the old coach returns now more than ever.
There's no doubt that Chaney is contrite about the situation. Let it also be known that no apology can make up for the fact that Bryant's season is over, probably ending a gallant Saint Joseph's run for the NCAA Tournament ... wiped out because of an immature act.
Chaney is fortunate his actions didn't incite a riot that could have caused major injuries and damage to the game we all love.
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question to Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.