PHILADELPHIA -- John Chaney's scowl was gone, the dark,
deep-set eyes concealed behind sunglasses.
The raspy voice, which has boomed to the upper deck of many
arenas, was hushed. It was perhaps one final, subdued look at a
Hall of Fame basketball coach who realized it was time to leave
This was indeed a different Chaney.
"Excuse me while I disappear," Chaney said, his shirt
unbuttoned and his unraveled tie draped over his shoulders.
With those words, Chaney left the podium Monday and retired
after 24 seasons at Temple, ending a 34-year coaching career of
fatherly off-the-court mentoring that was sometimes overshadowed by
a temper that got the better of him.
"It's always a very traumatic time, but it is time," Chaney
said. "Temple gave me a chance to make my own decision and that's
the great thing about it. Right now I'm faced with another problem
with my wife, so it's the right time to go."
Chaney will not coach the Owls' opening NIT game against Akron
on Tuesday night because his wife was scheduled to undergo a
procedure for an undisclosed health problem. Assistant Dan
Leibovitz will take his place, and it was not clear if Chaney would
return to the bench if Temple won.
The 74-year-old Chaney guided Temple to 17 NCAA Tournament
appearances, including five NCAA regional finals -- where he went
0-5 and never made the Final Four. He was twice named national
coach of the year and entered the Hall of Fame in 2001.
This season, Temple (17-14) made the NIT for the fifth straight
season, a dramatic decline for a team that was once an NCAA Tournament regular.
In typical Chaney fashion, Monday was no ordinary goodbye.
Flanked by former and current players and coaches, Chaney wove his
life story around amusing anecdotes about his friend Bill Cosby, a
playful threat to slap the mayor, and several pokes at school
Chaney also wiped away tears from behind his sunglasses and
talked at length about a favorite subject -- education's role in
helping the poor and disadvantaged.
"I'm going to be mean and ornery when I see something that's
wrong and I'm going to try and right it," Chaney said.
Chaney has 741 wins as a college coach, including a 516-252
record at Temple, where he won seven Atlantic 10 conference titles.
His teams did remarkably well considering Chaney couldn't recruit
the high school All-Americans who filled the rosters of the power
Only Bob Knight, Eddie Sutton, Lute Olson, and Mike Krzyzewski
are the active coaches with more career victories.
Chaney was a commanding figure on the court -- restless, cranky,
his otherwise natty clothes in shambles by the end of the game.
Often, as he exhorted his team, he put himself in situations he
Last season, Chaney seemed on his way out. He inserted a player
he called a "goon" into a game against Saint Joseph's for the
sole purpose of committing hard fouls because he thought the Hawks
were using illegal screens. A Saint Joseph's player, John Bryant,
ended up with a broken arm after being knocked out of the air.
Chaney later apologized and was suspended for five games.
In 1984, Chaney grabbed George Washington coach Gerry Gimelstob
by the shoulders at halftime of a game. In 1994, he had a heated
exchange following a game against UMass in which he threatened to
kill coach John Calipari. Chaney apologized and was suspended for a
game. The two later became friends.
While Temple president David Adamany joked Chaney "gave me
heartburn every three or four months," Owls guard Mardy Collins
said it was a mistake to focus on Chaney's outrageous actions.
"Those little incidents don't measure up to the things he's
done here at Temple," Collins said.
Collins has one last chance to give Chaney a championship, even
if it is the NIT and Leibovitz is coaching. Leibovitz, who's spent
10 years as a Temple assistant and coached the Owls last season
during Chaney's suspension, wished Chaney could have had a better
"It's just regretful we couldn't get to the tournament one last
time," he said. "We put everything we had into it. I may never
forgive myself for not getting him back in."
Leibovitz expects to be a candidate for the vacancy, and Chaney
said he would submit names to athletic director Bill Bradshaw for
consideration. While Chaney said the next coach needed to be a
"Temple person," Bradshaw said he would take his time and not
rule out any candidate, especially with the NCAA Tournament
starting this week.
Whoever is hired should expect to stick around for a while -- the
Owls have only had four coaches since 1942 and two are in the Hall
Chaney, who took Cheyney State in suburban Philadelphia to the
1978 Division II national championship, arrived at Temple before
the 1982-83 season.
He was a father figure for players who often came to Temple from
broken homes, violent neighborhoods and bad schools. With
notoriously early morning practices, Chaney talked about life
nearly as much as he taught the intricacies of his matchup zone
defense. He frequently said his biggest goal simply was to give
poor kids a chance to get an education.
"They just want to bounce the ball and dribble the ball, but I
talk about things that are going to stay with them for the rest of
their lives," Chaney said. "Somewhere along the line, it will
reverberate and they'll remember it."
Chaney was 50 when Temple hired him on a promise to make the
program and the university nationally recognized. He refused to
load his schedules with easy teams, and instead traveled to hostile
courts to play teams supposedly brimming with talent.
He showed flashes this season that his Owls could still play
with the nation's elite, knocking off three Top 25 teams, including
an upset over top-seeded George Washington last week in the
Atlantic 10 tournament.
Now all Chaney wants to do is eat peanuts, drink beer and tell
some embellished stories.
And maybe sleep in.