Monday, March 13, 2006

So Long, John Chaney

No matter how much fun the world of college basketball may seem in this most glorious week of the year, there is a tinge of sadness today as John Chaney announces his retirement as Temple's basketball coach.

Chaney always came across as one of the good guys. Sure, he had a temper that at times could make Bobby Knight or Mike Ditka blush. And yeah, that whole Goongate episode last year in a game with St. Joseph's was unfortunate, but through it all, Chaney seemed like a guy who genuinely cared about his kids. As antiquated as it may seem, Chaney wanted more for his players than merely wins and losses. He wanted them to mature into men. Corny, yeah, but true.

The Owls rarely attracted the blue chip recruits. In all of Chaney's years, Eddie Jones and Aaron McKie are the only Temple player I can think of off the top of my head who went onto solid NBA careers, and neither ever became a star. Even Mark Macon was a fringe player in the league before falling off. Chaney's players often seemed a little rough around the edges, like kids who may not have been given a fair shake at other places or kids who may have drifted in a bad direction without the love an old man with droopy eyes on a Philly campus.

Chaney took them in and whipped them into shape with tough love and his notorious early morning practices.

And when he did something a tad crazy, such as challenge John Calipari to a fight at a post-game press conference, you often had the feeling that, somehow, he was in the right. Was Calipari running a slimy program? Yeah, probably, and the NCAA's record books would eventually agree.

Chaney, despite his flaws, did things the right way and he wasn't about to stand by idly while guys like Calipari took all the shortcuts.

Through it all, Chaney produced 741 wins and some fine Temple teams. Though they rarely scaled the heights of the polls, five times Chaney guided the Owls to the Elite Eight only to come up short of an elusive Final Four each time. That's sad.

What's more sad is that college basketball is losing one of its truly good people.

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