Chaney#8217;s retirement leaves a void in coaching ranks

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 3, 2006

The late, great college basketball coach Al McGuire was recruiting a player to Marquette. He picked up the phone and called the player.

So what? All college coaches do that. Except this time McGuire called the recruit at an unusual hour of the day.

“Coach, it’s 4:30 in the morning.”

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“That’s right. And you better get used to it if you go to Temple and play for John Chaney because that’s what time you’ll be getting up,” McGuire said to the recruit coveted by both coaches.

Reveille at 4:30? Practice at 6 a.m. John Chaney must be crazy.

Did you see him go after then Massachusetts coach John Calipari? Chaney went off in a wild rant. John Chaney must be crazy.

Crazy like a fox.

Practice at 6 a.m. meant players couldn’t stay out late at night. And if they aren’t out late, they can’t get in trouble.

Oh, outburst like the one against Calipari or inserting Nehemiah Ingram into lineup strictly to take out St. John’s John Bryant — which resulted Bryant breaking an arm — were the results of his fiery temper and intense drive to win.

No, Chaney was no saint in the world of coaching. He was respected, especially at Temple University where he had a stricter style of discipline than most colleges and graduated players.

At 74, the basketball critics said Chaney was getting too old. He couldn’t get the players he was used to bringing to the Owls program. But it really wasn’t Chaney who needed to change, but rather the attitude of the sports world that caters to the players because of their athletic talents and forgetting about their personal needs.

Chaney retired last week without much fanfare. He didn’t even coach his final game in the opening round of the NIT because he needed to be with his ill wife.

College basketball may forget John Chaney, but he never forgot his players and what they really needed. Much like another fiery named Bob Knight, Chaney was an explosive coach with an undying concern for his players’ welfare. Despite all his conflicts, Chaney kept his job for more than two decades because he did care and he didn’t cheat.

No man is without sin. The media puts pressure on universities to dismiss coaches anytime they might say something that isn’t politically correct or matches their opinions of what should be said or done.

John Chaney wasn’t without his sins as a coach. But John Chaney meant far more to the players in his program than any of the foul language he uttered.

Given the choice between bad language and a fiery temper or concern and character, I’ll take the latter any day.

College basketball will miss John Chaney.

Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.