After the Owls wrenching loss at Massachusetts last Saturday, coach John Chaney earned victory No. 700 with a 76-57 win over St. Bonaventure last night at the Liacouras Center.
A close group of family members had traveled to Massachusetts, only to see the Owls fall short. As time expired Chaney was mobbed by reporters and players.
Through the first half Temple (9-7, 2-4) held a comfortable edge and led by as much as 14. Unlike most games this season, it was more than just senior guard David Hawkins doing the scoring, as three other Owls had double-digit point totals.
The Bonnies cut the lead to just three points with 12 minutes left when the Owls started to pull away. Freshman guard Dustin Salisbery slammed in a miss, extending Temple’s lead, 50-42. Hawkins nailed back-to-back threes and put the game out of reach. The senior finished with 21 points, six assists and five steals.
After being presented with a commemorative basketball recognizing his honor, Chaney grabbed a microphone and made a small appreciative speech.
“Today you make me feel like a young man,” he said. “I only see faces and the memories through the wins and the losses. I want to thank you for being the perfect fans. And for being the best through all these years.”
Chaney reached an impressive plateau as one of five active NCAA coaches to win 700 games. He is one of 16 Division-I coaches with at least that many victories.
While those close to Chaney were excited to see him reach the mark, his team was anxious, too. After the loss to UMass, Hawkins felt bad about the team coming up short, Chaney said.
“When you see kids express an honest emotion, that you don’t see often, you can’t help now,” Chaney said. “They have a lump in their throat and you realize there are some good people out there.”
But Chaney, who is a teacher above everything else, said sometimes losses are more important than wins.
“Losses are meaningful, too, because you look at who was with you,” Chaney said earlier this week. “The losses are some of the best lessons.”
Of the 16 coaches with 700 wins, Chaney is the only one who is black. But Chaney doesn’t feel the color of his skin should add any significance to his accomplishment.
“It doesn’t change a thing,” he said. “What I do know is when I came here years back, I didn’t like that adjective. I didn’t have anything to do with being black.”
Chaney added, “What I look at more is the 22 years and one job. That, I think, is something.”
In his 22nd season at Temple, Chaney has the seventh-longest tenure at one school among active NCAA coaches.
After nine years of coaching high school, Chaney got his first college job at Cheyney State in 1972, a Division II school. All he did there was compile an astounding 225-59 record and won the national title in 1978.
Hired in 1982, Chaney quickly brought his winning attitude to Temple and has since led the program to 15 20-win seasons and five Elite Eight appearances in the NCAA Tournament.
“There’s people in this room that you think about,” Chaney said. “The people that hired you, that you think about. You revisit the people that count and you can count them in your life and they just mean so much.”
Chaney has never stopped hounding his players. Whether it is a game, practice, or on the team bus, Chaney keeps his players on a steep precipice. That’s Chaney’s way of disciplining, and why the Hall of Fame coach is in rare company.
Call him a control freak if you want, but Chaney seems to monitor everything his players do and say.
Take last Wednesday night after the Owls had beat Penn in one of their best performances of the season. Hawkins was asked about it being the squad’s most complete efforts of the season.
“As far as a team, yeah,” Hawkins said.
“That’s because you passed the ball,” Chaney insisted.
“Well, I was going to say that,” Hawkins retorted.
“Well, say it,” Chaney said.
“Because we passed the ball,” Hawkins repeated.
“Don’t say we, say you!,” Chaney harrumphed.
That’s how it is with Chaney. He indoctrinates his players to no end and when he thinks they understand, he makes them say what he wants them to say and do what he wants them to do.
Do his players appreciate it? Well, as the press conference concluded, Hawkins kissed Chaney on the forehead and wished his coach a happy birthday.
Jason S. Haslam can be reached at email@example.com.