When junior Christian Imperato sat down at a computer in the TECH Center yesterday morning to check his e-mail, his eyes darted to the new message he received from director of athletics Bill Bradshaw.
The brief message stated that a news conference featuring John Chaney would be held at the Liacouras Center at 11 a.m.
Imperato noticed the time. It was 10:30 a.m. He quickly gathered his belongings and sprinted across campus to hear Chaney, 74, announce his retirement after 24 years as the head coach of the men’s basketball team.
“I was in shock,” Imperato said. “I wasn’t expecting him to retire, especially after losing in the Atlantic Ten tournament. He still has a winning program.”
Junior Andrew Carl said, “You knew that this day was going to come, but you didn’t think it would actually happen.”
Imperato and Carl were one of many students who filled the crowded Fox-Gettis Room in the Liacouras Center to say goodbye to the Hall of Fame coach.
Senior Noah Black said he was impressed by the amount of student support at the conference. He also praised Chaney for being an “outstanding member of the community” and said his message about “staying the course” and helping others was inspirational.
“I always knew that he was a decent guy but I never realized what type of person he really was until today,” Black said. “His message really hit home.”
Students said adjusting to a new basketball coach – in addition to a new university president and football coach – will take patience.
Junior Dan Binder said he will miss watching Chaney patrol the sideline with his tie undone and his sleeves rolled up.
“I’ll miss his antics and his ‘Chaney-isms,'” he said. “I [always] got a kick out of what he would say.”
Imperato said he will remember how Chaney built the basketball program under his own personality.
“He always put life lessons over winning,” Imperato said.
Temple Student Government Diversity Affairs Co-Chair Juan Galeano said Chaney’s candor and intensity on the court helped make him unique.
“They described him as being ‘tough as nails’ and that’s how I’ve always pictured him also,” Galeano said. “He’s very straightforward and you have to respect that quality in a person.”
Galeano said that Chaney succeeded in bringing “a lot of publicity” to Temple. He said that Chaney kept the tradition of the university alive by recruiting players from tough circumstances and giving them a chance to succeed on and off the court.
TSG Vice President of Academic Affairs Ryan Phelan and Speaker Kate Tramontana both said that Chaney’s retirement is a “huge loss” for the university and the community.
“He was an exceptional coach,” Tramontana said. “Hopefully we can find someone who can continue the traditions that Chaney helped establish here.”
Carl said Chaney may be viewed as an ornery personality to his critics, but he showed a different side when away from the court.
Carl recalled seeing Chaney surrounded by autograph-seekers at a fan fest event earlier in the season. In the midst of the pens and pads, Chaney’s attention was undividedly focused on a crying child.
“All he could think about was cheering that kid up,” Carl said. “That was his only worry.”
Tyson McCloud can be reached at email@example.com.