Donning pink-tinted sunglasses to shield his tear-moistened eyes, John Chaney swayed into the Fox-Gittis Room at the Liacouras Center on Monday with a plan in mind.
Similar to every 6 a.m. practice he had orchestrated and recruiting trip he had conducted, Chaney had a vision.
He calmly took his seat while absorbing a barrage of applause from his friends and family, adoring fans, and members of the Temple faculty and student body.
Others congregated in the Liacouras Center lobby to listen as Chaney officially announced his retirement from 24 seasons of coaching the men’s basketball team.
In all Chaney, 74, has coached 34 seasons of Division I basketball. And over that span, the Hall of Fame coach said he is more honored to have been recognized as teacher of the year – with the State of Pennsylvania’s Distinguished Faculty Award in 1979 – than as coach of the year, an honor he has received at several levels of the game.
Placed before any other accolade is his instrumental role as a teacher, Chaney said. He is seen as a source of encouragement for countless players and students, to strive for consistency and to be the best.
“One of the things I’ve always believed was that if you’re going to reach the ceiling, you got to move the floor up,” he said.
Chaney has said in recent seasons that he would coach as long as his players would listen. In Chaney’s 24 seasons at Temple, his players listened and responded by compiling a 515-252 record.
He earned his 700th career coaching victory in the 2003-04 season. He also helped Temple become the seventh winningest men’s college basketball program in the nation. He leaves coaching with an overall mark of 741-311.
All of Chaney’s current players were in attendance at the press conference, as well as former players like Howie Evans, a point guard who played in the late 1980s, Kevin Clifton, who was one of Chaney’s first Temple recruits, and Levan Alston, who played with two 20-win teams in the mid-1990s.
“What he has taught me, you can take that wherever you go,” said Alston, who has played basketball overseas.
Atlantic Ten Conference Commissioner Linda Bruno was at Chaney’s retirement press conference, as well. Bruno said she admires Chaney because he never faltered in providing fair treatment for both male and female administrators.
“A lot of things he does, you don’t see that [elsewhere], like withholding kids from games because they [had] skipped class,” Bruno said. “To him, I was always seen as an administrator in the business and not a woman in the business. Today is a sad day for college athletics because we’re losing a complete gentleman.”
While addressing the couple-hundred people at the press conference, Chaney wiped away tears and sniffled at times. But for much of his 40 minutes at the podium, he possessed the strength and wisdom that helped him guide Temple to 15 20-win seasons and 23-straight postseason appearances, including five trips to the NCAA Tournament’s Elite 8.
Chaney’s retirement plan is a simple one. While he promised that he would never completely leave Temple, he added that he would also spend some time enjoying the relaxation that comes with retirement.
“I shall be here and be around, watching over you,” he said. “But I’ll find some time to eat some peanuts, drink some beer, [and] tell some lies. … I’ll find some ways to enjoy myself.”
Chaney provided advice for the Temple community: Stay the course. And Chaney didn’t speak specifically to the athletic department, either. He placed emphasis on the university’s maintaining its current academic standards and tuition costs to keep Temple an affordable and quality commodity.
And like every well-devised strategy, Chaney had a proper exit plan. He quoted one of his favorite musicians, Frank Sinatra, in speaking his five final words as Temple’s coach: “Excuse me while I disappear.”
And with that Chaney departed the Fox-Gittis Room for the reclusion of his office.
Christopher A. Vito can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.