John Chaney, one of the nation’s leading black coaches and a commanding figure during a Hall of Fame basketball career at Temple, died Friday. He was 89.
The university said he died after a short, unspecified illness. He celebrated his birthday last week.
Chaney led Temple to 17 NCAA tournament appearances over 24 seasons, including five NCAA regional finals.
He became a de facto father to dozens of his players, many coming to Temple from broken homes, violent upbringings and bad schools. He often said his biggest goal was to give poor kids a chance to get an education.
John was an imposing presence on the court – restless, cranky, his otherwise natty clothes in shambles by the end of the game. Often, as he urged his team, he put himself in situations he later regretted. He was known for a fiery temper – sending a player into a 2005 game to commit hard fouls. Chaney served a suspension and apologized.
Though he seemed permanently cranky, especially during games, Chaney was often tender and funny. He loved telling stories. His postgame news conferences were sometimes more entertaining than the games that preceded them. His retirement news conference in March 2006 wasn’t about hoops but about education’s role in helping the poor and disadvantaged. They included amusing anecdotes, pokes at the school administration and active threats to slap the mayor.
It is something we all dream about, but very often dreams come up short,” he said. “Very often you don’t realize everything. But you have to realize that the growth you see in youngsters like these is probably the highest accomplishment you can reach.”