It really could be over this time. John Chaney’s tenure as men’s basketball head coach at Temple University could be coming to an end in the near future.
Despite futile attempts and the pleas of many calling for his dismissal after the embarrassing “Goongate” incident against Saint Joseph’s Feb. 22 of last year, Chaney managed to receive enough empathy from those in Temple’s Athletic Department to keep his job for the duration of his contract.
The particulars of Chaney’s contract are confidential, according to Athletic Department sources, but it has been speculated that this is the final year of the coach’s existing contract. The odds of Chaney being brought back are slimmer than the black tie he habitually fashions on the sidelines.
All things considered, this is not the kind of treatment Chaney deserves. The man’s name is synonymous with this school’s basketball program. The number of winning seasons he’s been responsible for at Temple is greater than the tenures of many members of the Athletic Department.
Chaney’s credentials speak for themselves. The 73-year-old ranks fourth in career victories among active coaches. He’s been named Atlantic Ten Conference Coach of the Year five times. In 33 seasons as a head coach of the Owls and Cheyney State, Chaney has led 30 of his teams to postseason berths.
The next fact is the most astounding: Chaney has managed to survive the ever-turning coaching carousel. In a sports world where winning is a cure-all, Chaney’s recent lack of coaching Ws has placed media attention squarely on him.
Prior to last season, Chaney had never gone four years without getting one of his teams to the NCAA Tournament. NBA-bound Mardy Collins might finish his career here without playing in the Big Dance.
Support for the team is dwindling as lackluster attendance at home games illustrates how quickly a once-proud and respected program can become, well … average.
Nevertheless, climbing out of this slump starts with recruiting, and the circumstances surrounding Chaney place him and Temple at a far disadvantage when Chaney enters the home of a prospective player.
Chaney’s list of accomplishments is impressive to say the least. But prospective players might ask the aged coach, ‘Will you be at Temple for all four of my seasons?’ And therein lies the problem the Owls have dealt with.
Over his career, Chaney has shown that he’s been willing to take a stand for a group of young people that looks up to him. He’s taken chances on players who weren’t given a chance by other programs.
Drexel men’s basketball coach Bruiser Flint views Chaney as a humanitarian. Flint has coached against Chaney seven times, dating back to when Flint was Massachusetts’ head coach. If Chaney was denied a contract extension, his legacy would not be altered, Flint said.
“He opened the doors for a lot of African American coaches, and that means a lot more than wins and losses,” Flint said by phone this week. “He’s made much more contributions to the game.”
Following Chaney’s self-imposed suspension last season, one can’t help but be reminded of the situation of another aged coach from the area, who has similarly suffered from media and recruiting plight.
Joe Paterno, at the ripe age of 79, has been the head football coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions for 40 years. He’s had some ups and downs. From 2000 to 2004, the Nittany Lions recorded only one winning season.
But Paterno led the Nittany Lions to an 11-1 record and an Orange Bowl victory over Atlantic Coast Conference champion Florida State.
The only other current coach whose rap sheet of verbal blunders rivals that of Paterno’s is Chaney’s.
So why is Chaney being so closely scrutinized? Is it for being honest about the officiating of illegal screens? Or was it for his numerous public apologies and his offer to pay the hospital bills that St. Joe’s John Bryant incurred?
After 24 years of service to one organization, you might be treated to a nice office with an even better view, and a salary to justify it all.
But most importantly, you’d get respect, which is something that’s much harder to come by.
Failing to renew Chaney’s contract at the conclusion of this season would be shortchanging him, a man whose impact on the lives of fans, players and countless youth in Philadelphia and abroad is immeasurable.
Jeremy Drummond can be reached at email@example.com.