Former Temple Owls coach John Chaney is a basketball legend, but his legacy should be remembered for more than X’s and O’s.
He was great in his playing days, though that goes under the radar due to his immense success as a coach. He played his high school ball in Philadelphia at Benjamin Franklin and tied a then-Public league postseason record by scoring 25 points in a semi-final game.
He was one of the best players in the area, yet did not receive any offers to play for a local team. So, he took his game to Bethune-Cookman, where he would become a superstar guard, including exploding in one game to drop 57 points.
He played from 1950-1953, and he led his team to the 1953 Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title, in addition to being named to the SIAC team all four years at Bethune-Cookman. He was inducted into their Hall of Fame in 2000.
Now, that I’m done proving his worth as a player, his accolades as a coach speak for themselves: 741-312. 31 postseason berths. He won the 1978 Division II National Championship with Cheyney State. Eighteen NCAA Tournament appearances with the Owls. Four Atlantic Ten Conference Championships. Two National Coach of the Year awards. A .703 career win percentage. Enshrined in the National Hall of Fame in 2001.
But John Chaney was more than the numbers. More than the accolades.
He was a teacher. And still is.
Around this time 20 years ago, he was teaching his team to dominate the opposition, as two decades ago the Owls were ranked No. 1 in the nation en route to a 32-2 record and a berth in the Elite Eight. The Owls’ signature win that season was a 83-66 drubbing of North Carolina, a victory where Chaney taught legendary coach Dean Smith a thing or two.
He also taught things about life to his players.
Chaney recently spoke to a class I’m in and said that point guard was a position where a player had to have good leadership skills, but also be a thinker.
Mark Tyndale and Mardy Collins played power forward at Simon Gratz High School in Philadelphia. They both played point guard for Chaney and experienced success. Collins is now in the NBA and Tyndale has led the Owls to 12 wins already this season, setting the Owls up for a potential postseason berth.
Chaney had no small part in both of these local players successes. Aaron McKie was also a point guard for Chaney and also came from Simon Gratz. He’s a 13-year NBA veteran, currently on the Memphis Grizzlies roster. Under Chaney’s guidance, McKie was the A-10 Player of the Year in 1993.
Chaney’s tentacles stretched to many players in the city, like big man Marc Jackson, Lynn Greer and current star Dionte Christmas. But they have also reached to current women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley.
Chaney said he was watching a basketball game where an analyst said Staley was speaking at a high volume level and looked like a “mini-Chaney.”
He returned the praise and said she should already be in the Hall of Fame.
Anyone who has ever heard Chaney speak knows he said it in a more colorful way.
But, his point was that Staley was teaching her young ladies.
The same way Chaney taught young people. And still is.
Terrance McNeil can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.