I knew this day would one day, inevitably come. However, I don’t have to like it and I certainly wish I could turn back the hands of time.
My favorite collegiate basketball coach of all-time – Temple University’s Hall of Fame legend, John Chaney – is finally calling it quits after 24 terrific seasons at the North Philadelphia institution that he helped to put on a national map.
Not only is Chaney my favorite college basketball coach of all-time but from my perspective, the best ever as well. Yes, I know he never won a national championship – that measuring stick that somehow, many uninformed people equate with greatness – but I can unequivocally say from firsthand experience that Chaney was one of the finest teachers of life lessons any young man could ever have.
Forget the fact that Chaney has led the Owls to five NCAA regional finals and 17 NCAA tournament appearances and was twice selected as the national coach of the year. The 74-year-old Chaney stressed teaching his players as much – or more – about life – than he ever did about basketball.
Now, don’t get me wrong, Chaney wanted to win extremely badly and was as fiery and competitive as any man half his age, but believe me, the importance of raising his players correctly and instilling morals and values in them far outweighed the importance of winning any game.
“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 Monday. “Somewhere along the line, it will reverberate and they’ll remember it.”
You see, Chaney, who grew up in South Philadelphia, knew that not every college player is going to make it to the NBA. He also knew that his players had to take advantage of the educational opportunities that are now available – but were never available for young African-American men in his day.
“I didn’t think about college,” he said. “Blacks at that stage didn’t think about college. They knew that college wasn’t possible for poor people. Coming out of a very poor neighborhood, I didn’t know what I wanted out of life, but I did know what I didn’t want. I didn’t want to live where there were rat-infested, roach-infested homes. I wanted to rise above that.”
Is the man perfect?
Of course not.
Has he done some regrettable things that I’m sure he wishes he could take back?
Once again, that would be an unequivocal yes.
However, through all of the rants and raves and even questionable behavior, Chaney is a moral man who tells it like it is and let’s the chips fall where they may. It’s not his fault if some people can’t handle truth.
I will say one last thing about Chaney. Every parent of every basketball player who has ever played for Chaney is thanking their lucky stars for the venerable teacher who helped to mold their respective sons into respectable, educated, young men.