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John Chaney, 1932-2021

A long life left many gifts for others

Temple University Basketball
PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 1994: Coach John Chaney of Temple University in January 1994 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images

We were really sorry to hear that former Temple coach John Chaney passed away Friday. We always admired him.

He was born in 1932 and coached from 1963 to 2006. He started coaching a junior high team then moved on to Philadelphia’s famed Simon Gratz High. From there he took the Cheyney State job in 1972 and six years later won the D-II national championship, the same month that Duke made a surprise trip to the 1978 Final Four.

In 1982, he took the Temple job and moved from being a very good but somewhat unknown coach to being an icon.

And while it didn't just happen at Temple, the world began to understand that Chaney was a very good man who not only coached his players but treated them like his own sons. He was very strict with his team, for instance scheduling practice at 5:30 - A.M.

He did that so that he could get basketball out of the way early but also so that his players would be too tired at night to get into much mischief.

That’s not to say that he was a perfect man. He had trouble controlling his temper, infamously invading a John Calipari post-game press conference when Calipari was at UMass and threatening to kill him.

He also on at least two occasions (including the game we just mentioned against UMass) admitted to instructing his players to injure opponents. The second occasion was against St. Joe’s where he sent bulky forward into the game with instructions to hurt the opponents.

St. Joe’s John Bryant ended up with a fractured arm. Chaney was remorseful, suspending himself for a game. Temple was more concerned, suspending him for the rest of the regular season (Chaney then suspended himself for the A-10 tournament as well).

It was an ugly chapter in a brilliant coaching career but it doesn’t negate his overall brilliance or the many good things that he did for his players. They can’t be ignored, but if anything, his flaws magnified his strengths. And it’s worth mentioning that he and Calipari made up and were close friends for the rest of his life.

What we liked most about Chaney though was his lack of pretension or artifice. He was who you saw. He had a volcanic temper, true; who could ever forget the glare he could focus on officials like a white hot laser beam? You can’t get technicals for staring, but if you could, he might not have finished any games.

He never pretended to be anything other than John Chaney and John Chaney, on balance, was an unusually good man who typically put other people’s needs ahead of his own and tried to right wrongs where he could. For many, many people, this world is a much better place for his having been a part of it.