Tuesday, 14 March 2006

Farewell to a basketball legend

Amidst the pairings of the teams competing for the NCAA title, a little piece of news dribbled down the wires: John Chaney, 24-year coach of Temple University, has decided to retire. With this retirement, college basketball will lose one of the finest basketball brains in the world.

Sure, his Temple Owls never won the national championship. Never even got to the Final Four, but they always were one thing: competitive. His teams resembled the man. A defense-first approach, helped by his outstanding match-up zone, with a never-say-die attitude, staying in games with scraping and hussling. And although he never had the change to work with the same talent as those coaches at schools like Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Michigan, Kentucky or UCLA, he did win. A lot. Chaney is arguably the best coach never to go to the Final Four. 741 wins (516-252 at Temple), 2-time National Coach of the Year, 5-time Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year and numerous Atlantic 10 regular and tournament championships. And a Hall of Famer to boot.

But the man wasn't a saint. Nor did he claim to be. Just take his rigorous training sessions at 5 AM. Or the time he threatened to kill then Umass (now Memphis) coach John Calipari (they are now friends) or when he send a player out into a game to make a flagrant foul. He did mess up. But he took responsibility for it and paid his price for those indiscretions.

And responsibility was what he taught his players as well. He was the kind of guy who gave underprivileged kids a chance to succeed in basketball as well as life. Taking kids no other program even looked at. And because of that he wasn't just a coach for most of his players: he was a father figure who they respected and looked up to. A teacher who taught them about life.

Chaney will probably be remembered for the times he messed up. But a great basketball mind has left the game and an even greater educator has stopped teaching. People who played for him or worked with him give him nothing but praise. His influence will be missed.

1 comment:

Tim Adank said...

So erhmmm..... conscience question. Villanova or UConn? ;-)