Legendary College Basketball Coach John Chaney Dead at Age 89

by Chris Haney
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On Friday morning, Hall of Famer and longtime Temple University basketball coach John Chaney passed away at the age of 89.

The university announced Chaney’s death on Friday afternoon stating that he passed away late Friday morning. Temple shared that he died after suffering from a short illness, but did not share further details. Their statement also said that Chaney had just celebrated his 89th birthday last week.

“Our hearts are broken. Rest in Peace, Coach,” the Temple Owls Twitter account wrote.

Temple President Richard M. Englert, who has known Chaney since he took the coaching job in 1982, shared his condolences.

“John Chaney was a great coach, but he was so much more. For generations of Temple University students, he was a wise counselor, a dedicated teacher,  an icon of success, and a passionate leader who always led by example and with conviction,” Englert said. “I am also honored to say he was a dear friend.”

“For generations of his players, there is only one man whom they all lovingly called Coach even to this day. That was John Chaney.  Our most sincere condolences go out to his wonderful family members.  We will keep them all in our prayers,” he concluded.

John Chaney and His Iconic Coaching Career

John Chaney is known widely as one of the most respected coaches in collegiate athletics history. He coached Temple’s men’s basketball program for 24 years and led the Owls to 17 NCAA tournament appearances. The school made the Elite Eight five times and during one stretch made the tourney 12 straight years.

Chaney became the first African-American college basketball coach in history to win 700 or more games. He received the national Division I coach of the year award twice, and led his 1987-88 team to a No. 1 ranking to end the regular season. He ended his coaching career at Temple with an impressive 516-253 record and won six Atlantic 10 conference titles. The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame enshrined Chaney into their hallowed grounds in 2001.

The hard-nosed, iconic coach was known for his hot temper and tough coaching approach. Chaney was an imposing character on the court and coached games with a fiery intensity. At times, his competitiveness got the best of him. Additionally, he put himself and his team in situations he later admitted to regretting.

In 2005, he sent a player into a game specifically to commit hard fouls. The NCAA suspended Chaney and he apologized for his actions. Yet the most famous incident came in 1994 and involved a young John Calipari. Following Temple’s game against UMass, Chaney interrupted Calipari’s postgame press conference. The two coaches’ heated exchange almost came to blows and Chaney infamously threatened to kill Calipari. The two coaches would later become friends and would often joke about the altercation.

However, Chaney also became well known as a mentor and father-like figure to dozens of his players. Numerous recruits came to Temple from broken homes and other less than fortunate situations. Chaney frequently said his primary goal was to give poor kids an opportunity to get an education. Former Temple and NBA player turned current Temple coach Aaron McKie spoke about Chaney’s influence on himself and so many more.

“Coach Chaney was like a father to me,” McKie explained.  “He taught not just me, but all of his players more than just how to succeed in basketball.  He taught us life lessons to make us better individuals off the court. I owe so much to him.  He made me the man I am today.” 

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