In its official first game without John Chaney as coach, the men’s basketball team mixed things up a bit.
It abandoned its trademark match-up zone defense for a somewhat effective 2-1-2 set. And the Owls ditched their inside-out offensive scheme for a bit of freewheeling.
But there was one constant throughout all of the change – Mardy Collins. Named First Team All-American last week by collegeinsider.com, Collins was counted on in the tie-game situation to deliver the Owls to a win in the opening round of the National Invitational Tournament.
Collins missed his shot, but more importantly he missed a chance to play out his final seconds as an Owl.
In the Owls’ eventual 80-73 overtime loss to Akron, Collins suffered a neck injury while attempting a field goal. As he coasted in for a shot, he fell to the floor and struck his head on the hardwood.
Collins’ neck was secured in a brace and he was carted out of the arena. He was taken to Temple Hospital. Afterward, interim head coach Dan Leibovitz spoke of the NBA prospect’s injury, which is initially said to be a neck sprain.
“He’s showing some good [movement] in his legs,” he said. “The kid [Collins] is going to make a lot of money. Right now, I don’t even care about the game.”
Collins’ teammate Mark Tyndale planned on meeting Collins at the hospital shortly after showering. Seeing Collins in the floor put Tyndale in a frightened disposition, Tyndale said.
“I’m never used to seeing Mardy on the floor,” said Tyndale, who led the Owls with 23 points. “That’s hard to see. Hopefully he can get better. I heard it wasn’t that bad. … It just might be a sprain. He was moving his legs. Hopefully he isn’t paralyzed or nothing like that.”
Of course, Leibovitz said, someone would have to call Chaney with the news of Collins’ status.
“I’m afraid to even call him and tell him what happened,” Leibovitz said.
Just a day after announcing his retirement from 24 seasons as Temple’s coach, Chaney had to deal with family issues today, as his wife underwent surgery. Leibovitz said Chaney was “in good spirits” when he spoke to him prior to the game.
An open seat was left on Temple’s bench to recognize Chaney’s 24-seasons-worth of accomplishments.
Christopher A. Vito can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.