Chatting with Coach Chaney

The Temple News talked with Hall of Fame coach John Chaney before his induction into the Big 5 Hall of Fame last Friday. Temple honored him at last Saturday’s game.

The Temple News talked with Hall of Fame coach John Chaney before his induction into the Big 5 Hall of Fame last Friday. Temple honored him at last Saturday’s game.

John Chaney coached at Temple from 1982 to 2006. During those 24 seasons, Chaney amassed a 516-253 record for the Owls and became the winningest coach in Temple men’s basketball history. He led Temple to 17 NCAA Tournament appearances, including five trips to the Elite Eight. His 1987-1988 team entered the NCAA Tournament ranked No. 1 in the nation. Prior to coming to Temple, Chaney won a NCAA Division II title with Cheyney University in 1978. In total, he racked up 741 career wins in 34 seasons.

Chaney, already a member of Temple’s Hall of Fame and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, was inducted into the Big 5 Hall of Fame last Friday along with former Villanova coach Rollie Massimino (the only Big 5 coach to win a national title) and former La Salle coach William “Speedy” Morris. Chaney celebrated his 78th birthday Jan. 21.

The Temple News talked with Chaney about his induction into the Big 5 Hall of Fame, his most memorable moments at Temple and his thoughts about this year’s team.

The Temple News: How does getting inducted into the Big 5 Hall of Fame compare to being inducted to Temple’s Hall of Fame or the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame?
John Chaney: I think each one has its own identity. Each one is separate. Naturally, the world Hall of Fame is something that is very high on my scale, in that it measures the total sum of all your work. To be recognized by your peers, in your own city and to be recognized by your place of, work and what all of our youngsters did, [ranks high]. More importantly, you just can’t get away from the fact that this just didn’t happen because of one person or one man. It happened because you’re able to motivate young people into getting out and performing. Each one has its own place.

TTN: What is your best Big 5 memory?
JC: I think one of my great memories has been over a period of many years of going to the Palestra and playing on this historic court with all of our teams from the beginning to the end. The ones that were so memorable were the ones when we were going to play for the Big 5 Championship and to see all the streamers coming out of the ceiling on the first shot of the ball game. It’s better than the students running out on the court. That gave us an identity. To see all kinds of streamers and to look up in the stands and see signs with the students making fun of you, those are things that I cherish.

TTN: Would you say the Palestra is one of the best college basketball arenas you have coached in?
JC: No, I wouldn’t say that. I think our arena’s pretty good. I like our arena [the Liacouras Center] much better. But I think what you can say about the Palestra is that it has such Philadelphia history behind it. I remember walking up to the Palestra and the guy with the little pretzel cart and the old-fashioned mustard and me getting four or five pretzels and peanuts so I could go up in the stands, sit up there and eat the pretzels. And the mustard was all over my suit and all over my hands and the peanuts that I’m shelling and dropping on the floor. Just that kind of ambience exists there. It just seems like it reverberates. It was made for college, not for professionals. It has something that just goes back in history because nobody else has what we have.”

TTN: When you coached, you were known for putting together a tough non-conference schedule. How would you rate the schedule that coach Fran Dunphy has put together this year?
JC: I was going to take Temple to new heights by making sure we played the best teams in the country and by making sure we forced the best teams to come here. I said very clearly, the Top 50 teams, I’ll play them at their place two and three times before they play me one time at Temple. That happened with everybody but [North] Carolina. North Carolina still owes us a game. Dean Smith lied to me. I played down at his place twice, but when we beat them down there, he didn’t come back. UCLA came to us, Louisville came to us, Indiana came to us, Duke came to us. I felt that Temple needed that kind of visibility, and we eventually got it. We were always a ranked team, just like we are today with the great job that coach Fran Dunphy’s doing. I find that he was equal to the task. His hands were tied when he first came here. I think that what he’s done since, in terms of the schedule, is to find the top teams in the country and play those top teams, and that is bringing in a great deal of respect. Of course, he doesn’t need that because he’s been a great coach all his life, including at the University of Penn.

TTN: What do you hope you will be remembered most for during your time here at Temple?
JC: I just think that one of the most important things for any coach is to make sure he works with a great deal of integrity, in terms of making sure he doesn’t cheat. That’s something that I was very proud of. I made it very clear that my coaching staff, when they went out to recruit, that they would never find themselves stooping so low as to making promises or making statements of any kind that would lead to us being put on probation. You have to operate with a great deal of integrity. With me, that was high on my list. I required that of my coaches. In terms of the youngsters we recruited, maybe they weren’t All-Americans, but we made sure they went to class and operated with the kind of honesty that was required.

TTN: Does it bother you at all that you never made a Final Four appearance?
JC: I think having been in the final eight five times in 14 years, only Duke had a better record in 14 years than us, and they won many titles. When you put that kind of perspective on it, and that you had that kind of opportunity, just remember there are more than 330 Division I teams, and if you end up in the final six or the final two, just remember, you’re still going to be somewhat unhappy if you don’t accomplish that final prize. My mama always said to me, ‘You’re only as good as the company you keep.’ Keep in good company, and guess what? You’re damn good yourself.

TTN: Do you have any regrets?
JC: I’ll start trouble, you know. The only regret I have is that I exposed so much of myself to the media. Certainly, I regret the language I used with Calipari [Chaney threatened then-Massachusetts coach John Calipari after a Feb. 13, 1994 game]. I should have waited until after the game was over and then took him outside and beat the hell out of him.

With the Saint Joseph’s incident [Chaney sent in Nehemiah Ingram to commit hard fouls against the Hawks, and Ingram ended up breaking the arm of St. Joe’s senior John Ingram], remember, at the time, it was just a hard foul. It wasn’t called a flagrant foul. It wasn’t called a bad foul. It was just a foul, and he went to the line and shot two foul shots. It was only when I went in and told the media that in the old days, every team had players they would send in, and they called them their ‘goons’ [that the uproar started]. But I don’t regret teaching basketball and making people understand that when you come to the basket to shoot layups, we’re going to deny you.

TTN: How would you evaluate the job coach Dunphy has done so far?
JC: Magnificent, magnificent. Second to none. With the youngsters that he had, second to none. I know him. He’s the best-kept secret in this city, and he was that way at the University of Penn. Not a lot of hoopla, not a lot of anything for that great man. He won more championships in the Ivy League than I did [in the Atlantic Ten Conference]. I think he thought Temple would be good for him because he’s a Philadelphia guy.

TTN: How would you compare this year’s team to some of your teams in the past?
JC: I think each team has its own identity. Each one of them is completely different. It’s difficult to compare. Our guys played under a great deal of scrutiny in some years when I made it very difficult, and yet they still overcame. I think Franny would agree with that. Each of his teams [at Penn] were completely different.

TTN: Does this year’s defense make you proud?
JC: There are two things that make me very proud of this team. You can look at the stats from game to game. First of all, the defensive principle that coach Dunphy has, even though he plays a lot of man-to-man, is the same as when we played zone and matchup. We led the country every year with our defensive differential. Nobody wanted to play our defense. The other thing is that you can look at the stats and see the turnovers. We led the country every year with low turnovers. Our average was nine turnovers. We were able to stay in every game and have a chance to win those games. Protect that basketball. Make sure you run an efficient offense. I mean, you don’t take the gun out of your hand and give it to someone to shoot you. You don’t walk out Friday night with the money you made and give it to a bum. No, that’s a turnover.

TTN: How far do you think this year’s Temple team can ultimately get?
JC: You’re going to have to be lucky. You’re going to have to be healthy also. That’s extremely important. Look at what happened to us in football [when freshman running back Bernard Pierce injured his shoulder]. We died a natural death. You’ve got to hope that your team stays healthy. The other thing is, you need luck. There’s no way you’re going to be on your game every night that you play. With so many great teams out there, I think what we want to do is hope and pray that our team gets through the conference again [and wins] the conference championship. When you get to the NCAAs, anything can happen.

Jennifer Reardon and Pete Dorchak can be reached at

Check out the full audio interview with Coach Chaney here:


  1. I would love to see Calipari knock Cheney’s punk ass out. Cheney would be scrappy, but Cal would make him wish he hadn’t been such a dumb ass back in the day.

  2. Cheney is a sore loser that has no respect outside of the “little 5”. Hall of Famer? – He’s never even taken a team to the final four much less a national chanpionship.

  3. I guess Chaney’s honesty about wanting to “beat the hell” out of Cal is…ummm…refreshing?

    I love Coach Chaney, but maybe he should spend some extra time with Bill Cosby and learn how to relax a little.

  4. Chaney is such a jagoff. He should be glad that he was ushered out of Calipari’s press conference before Cal puched that ugly head of his into the next room.

    How in the world Chaney would make ANY hall of fame is beyond belief.

  5. ABSURD! John Chaney was a mediocre coach that never won any substantial games, threatened to kill people, and would sub in players to intentionally hurt players on the opposing team.

    This guy should never be put in ANY hall of fames!!

  6. John Chaney is a coaching legend who took his teams to the Elite Eight 5 times. He did not get the cream of the crop players, he had mainly the blue collard players, but still managed to have award winning teams. As for John Calipari, the man is a media whore who loves attention. And it as great to see Kentucky lose.

  7. John Chaney is a coaching legend who took his teams to the Elite Eight 5 times. He did not get the cream of the crop players, he had mainly the blue collard players, but still managed to have award winning teams. As for John Calipari, the man is a media whore who loves attention. And it was great to see Kentucky lose.

  8. Tell Chaney to quit running his old trap. If that old man wants some then he can drive his motorized rascal down to Lexington and Coach Cal will beat the wrinkles out of him in front of 23,000 plus. GO CATS!

  9. Seriously? A bunch of moron Kentucky fans who have been rooting for Calipari for less than a year come on here to talk smack? Give me a break. A year ago you were probably complaining about him, and here you are, pretending you’ve loved him all along. What a bunch of frauds. You guys should have stuck with Tubby. He at least knew what he was doing.

    Kentucky will get to the Sweet 16 or Elite 8 before falling to a half-decent team. Wall is a great player, but that only gets you so far in March.

    Now go back to your Wildcat message boards. Nobody likes a troll.

  10. Chris & Mike P, John Chaney and Bobby Knight are two of a kind. They know basketball, but are about the poorest example of a coach that ever put a team on the floor. I guess they think they be rude, vulgar, nasty, stupid, and a lot of other things I can’t list is being a good person/coach is what it takes, then I understand why they will die a hated old men. As far as Chaney coaching, his record doesn’t speak very well for him. He never went very deep in the Final Four Tour. so how can he be such a good coach. Now as for Tubby Smith, he got lazy and didn’t do much for KY on the last. When he was ask to make some changes he left. Now as you can see he hasn’t done much where he is.

  11. @Hilton – He never went deep? Are you serious? Sure, he never went to the Final Four, but he went to the Elite 8 on 5 separate occasions without the elite recruits that one could get at Kentucky, Kansas, UNC, etc. I know that the Elite 8 isn’t the Final Four, but to suggest that he never went deep in the tourney simply isn’t fair. He also won over 500 games at Temple (over 700 games total), and while at Temple, he played the most difficult out-of-conference schedule possible, year in and year out. Plus, his matchup zone was so complex that the vast majority of college coaches could barely figure it out. Look at the way that Temple led in team defense and turnover ratio, year in and year out during his tenure. Let’s not pretend that John Chaney was some sort of second-rate coach. Very few coaches have his kind of credentials.

    Was he crude in public? Sure. But he never had an incident abusing a player a la Bobby Knight. None of John Chaney’s players have said a bad word about him. All of them who have spoken publicly about Chaney have suggested that he was a father figure who taught them the value of hard work, dedication, etc. 5:45 AM practices apparently served their purpose. Far from hated, Chaney is beloved, both by his players and by the majority of Philadelphia’s college basketball fans.

  12. Oh, and John Chaney definitely looks like an owl. I compare it to the people who say that after several years of living with a pet, you begin to look similar. After a few decades with Hooter, Chaney started to go owl.

  13. John Chaney is one of the greatest coaches of all time. I would be willing to bet Chaney said that remark about taking him outside after that game just as a joke. Give me John Chaney over Calipari any day.

  14. John Chaney is an ASS! He is a racist,a jerk and most of all, a poor role model. When is the last time Cheney raised $1.5 million for charity(Calipari/Haiti)? He was a father figure to black kids only. I don’t think he had a white anything on the bench.

  15. Kelly, why are you the one bringing race into it. Temple University is the most diverse university in the country according to the Princeton Review. It is also located in Philadelphia’s worst neighborhood. It would not be a surprise to find black players here, or on any court. Look at Villanova University which is located in one of the wealthiest zip codes in the country. Their student body is mainly white (hence the nick-name “VanillaNova”), and their court is dominated by mainly blacks. Are you saying Villanova is racist. Kelly, uneducated people like you will continue to perpetuate racism with your ignorance.

    Also, you should perceive Chaney’s comments about Calipari as a joke. The two have since made up, and have also fundraised together in the past. In fact, Calipari became good friends with Bill Cosby during his days in the A10 at UMass. As you know Cosby is a temple grad.

    Calipari raised one million for Haiti…media stunt. Called by Obama? Media Stunt. And he didn’t raise it by himself, individuals raised it..he just gets credit for being organizer. Plus, he’s loaded so he should give back.

  16. Temple might be diverse, but not on any of Cheney’s basketball teams. Chris, you must be a Democrat! Cal should give back just because he is rich? Sounds like you agree with the Obama plan of taking from the rich and giving to the poor. Yes, Calipari did organize the telethon. And yes he did have some help. It was a heartfelt act, not a stunt. And as far as me being “uneducated”, I’m just calling a spade a spade! Have a nice day, Chris!!!

  17. Late response..
    Kelly, I’m educated. And Your thoughts make no sense. At all.

    I’m a conservative Republic Libertarian. I support Ron Paul. Not telling this because I feel the need to defend myself, but because I’m proud.

    Anyways, I’m not advocating socialism. Rather I’m advocating private charity by the individual. Quite contrary to Obama taking public money. That is socialism.

    And kelly wise up. Basketball is a sport dominated by blacks. Get over it. You’re clearly a redneck from Kentucky who thinks they’re a republican because they support the troops and wants to spread democracy. Barry Goldwater would be proud. Not. Keep lying to yourself.

    You sound like the liberal arguing for forced integration and diversity. You sicken me.

    Why don’t you be a real conservative and uphold the constitution of the united states.

    As for men’s basketball. You’re just that bothered by this very nice article in a school newspaper you felt the need to comment to make yourself feel bigger in the world. It really must have grated on your nerves.

  18. I am rather late with my opinion but feel the need to support Coach Chaney after reading all the negative comments.

    Coach Chaney is a passionate man. He lost his temper many times but he has also admitted many of his mistakes. Temple couldn’t attract the best talent but he cared about the players and has a big heart. I think that he did a great job at Temple! Coach Dunphy is a great guy but I do miss Chaney’s passion. He brought is tough kids, inspired them and gave them the opportunity to succeed. He has all the qualities that Philadelphia loves in the sports. We’re scrappy and passionate, and we love our teams. If you can’t stand the heat Calipari, stay out of the kitchen.

  19. How many basketball players actually graduated from Temple University under the coach John Chaney ??????? and remember he says he strived for honesty and integrity Please answer honestly Part II How many white Kids ???? Again please answer honestly you are a diverse University

  20. @kelly

    Typical ditto head. If you actually did your homework you would have know have know that Chaney’s top assistant and best friend coach Maloney was white. John Chaney’s favorite point guard was not black. Asiistant Coach Dean Demopolous and Dan Leibovitz are white. And a whole assortment of other players.

    Type right wing nut job trolling the web with a total vaccum between the ears!!

    “Stupid is forever”

    • Jose, the rare white guys you saw near John Chaney are what we at Temple referred to as the House Honkeys. So get real. John Chaney harbored racist sentiments toward white people, and that all came pouring out that day with Calipari. Imagine some white guy spewing racist vitriol about black people, and later attempting to excuse it as a unique outburst that isn’t in any way indicative of his true feelings. Would you believe him? Yeah, neither would I. Chaney might’ve been great for his black players, but as far as race relations in this country are concerned John Chaney was a racist disgrace.

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