McKie will show Temple men’s basketball players ‘tough love’

Aaron McKie wants to develop “organic relationships” with players like John Chaney once did with him.

Aaron McKie (left) shakes hands with former coach John Chaney during his introduction as Temple’s next coach on April 2 at McGonigle Hall. | JUSTIN OAKES / THE TEMPLE NEWS

John Chaney used to make Aaron McKie cry once a week. 

McKie, who played on the men’s basketball team at Temple University from 1991-94, would run home after practices and be upset due to Chaney’s “tough love” coaching style, McKie said. 

During practice, Chaney held his players accountable, which led Chaney to occasionally yell and rattle his young athletes.

Now 25 years later, McKie is Temple’s coach and plans to use some of Chaney’s coaching philosophy with the Owls, minus the crying.

Chaney, 87, attended McKie’s introductory press conference at McGonigle Hall last Tuesday. The two have an “organic relationship” because of Chaney’s willingness to speak to players honestly, McKie said. 

Chaney held McKie to high standards every day, and because of that, McKie became a better player on the court and person off of it, he said.

“Once I got older, I never understood why they used to tell me, ‘You’re too nice,’” McKie said. “When I got into the NBA and I watched some of the behaviors, I thought, ‘Wow, they did right by me and taught me the right way.’”

“That’s leadership,” McKie added. “It can be unpopular. It can uncomfortable. But when you want to win, that’s what’s needed, and as a team that should be the ultimate goal. You need somebody to hold people accountable.”

McKie has held the Owls accountable during his time as an assistant coach, junior guard Alani Moore said. Whether it is making sure a play is run correctly in practice or players following team rules, McKie holds the Owls to a high standard every day, Moore added.

“[McKie] is the type of guy to tell you to ‘do this’ and do that and scream on you,” Moore said. “But at the same time, he will bring you like a brother or son. …That is what I like about him, there is no cutting corners for anybody.”

John Chaney’s former Temple program is now in the hands of one of his top players, Aaron McKie. | STEVE GENGLER / FILE PHOTO

During Chaney’s time on North Broad Street, discipline was at the center of his coaching philosophy, but his players benefited from it, McKie said.

McKie started 92 games at Temple and averaged 17.9 points per game during his career. McKie is tied for sixth on the school’s all-time scoring average list and played for three NCAA Tournament teams.

Chaney can recall days he was extremely pleased and proud of McKie, but Chaney can also recall days he was angry with McKie, he said. 

McKie was once held scoreless in the first half of an 1994 first round NCAA Tournament game against Drexel, despite being one of the team’s leaders. Although Temple held a four-point lead at halftime, Chaney was upset with one of his top players. 

“I couldn’t wait until we got into the locker room because I was going to kill him,” Chaney said. “I pulled him aside and said, ‘You haven’t scored a basket.’ … When I called on him to shoot, I needed him to shoot. I told him I was setting it up for him to score the first five possessions of the second half. If he didn’t, I was going to take him out of the game.” 

With the help of McKie’s scoring 21 points on 8-of-15 shooting, the Owls won that game and advanced to the next round of the NCAA Tournament. 

McKie knows he will need to find the balance of pushing his players and being a mentor. But, holding players accountable will help the Owls make deep NCAA Tournament runs, like McKie did as a player in 1993 when Temple went to the Elite Eight, he said.

About five months remain before McKie will pace the sideline as the Owls’ coach for the first time. McKie still has time to perfect his coaching style.

“That’s what I think about a lot,” McKie said. “Am I going to be that guy with the jacket on, or am I going to be a guy with the jacket off?”

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