If It Weren’t For Chaney’s Old School Ways, Many African American Kids Would Be Lost

By Gregory Moore
Updated: March 13, 2006

John Chaney's most remembered part of his career is the fact that he cared about his kids and their success off the field.

John Chaney's most remembered part of his career is the fact that he cared about his kids and their success off the field.

SAN ANTONIO — For everything that John Chaney may be for a lot of people, no one cannot say that this Hall of Fame coach did not care about the kids he brought into the University of Temple’s basketball program.

No one can ever say that Chaney didn’t understand his players because he did and if there is one thing that even the greats like John Wooden, Bob Knight or Rick Pitino will never have is the moniker of champion for the inner city kids. It was Chaney that not only championed for these kids but also showed them a way out of a dismal situation.

So it is with really a great sadness that John Chaney, a man who is best known for his fiery temper as well as his competitiveness, has decided to resign from coaching basketball this week. It comes with a great sadness even though this very writer has been critical of him last year for the goonish tactic he employed back in February of 2005 against a player from St. Joseph’s.

It pains me to see him go because even with that blemish, I firmly believe that this African American made life so much better for young African Americans from the Philadelphia inner city and other places where many college recruiters won’t even attempt to go into. It pains me to see him go because even with this blemish and with the blemish of the tirade he had years ago when John Calipari was coaching the University of Massachusetts, he is a man that parents would love to have as their ‘surrogate’ father for their young men who are going to play for him.

Even though I am not a father, I have always envisioned my future son to have the opportunity to have somebody in his life that would leave an indelible mark on him as someone of a positive role model. Besides myself, his mother and grandparents, if I am every blessed to have a son who is talented enough to go play collegiate ball, I would only hope that the coach he has would be of Chaney’s stature.

That may not mean a lot to the readers of this column but some fathers may understand. When you have a coach like a John Chaney in your life, things are a little bit more clearly on what is your overall focus. Coaches like Chaney, Eddie Robinson or a John Thompson don’t come around often in life. These coaches were father figures for many young Black men looking for some sort of identity.

Maybe it has been written that coaches like Wooden, Knight, Pitino and others could do the same bodies of work that Chaney did but I seriously doubt that. As good as these coaches are on the hardwood, what we are talking about is a coach who can completely understand where his young players are coming from.

Very few coaches have that ability and if they do possess such faculties,, it could be very safe to assume that this coach cares more about winning off the court with ‘those’ types of players from the inner cities.

Many could argue that Chaney would exclusively recruit from the inner city and maybe that is a fair assessment. Yet amongst his many accolades in the sports world, running a clean program that cares about the kids under it is also one that very few coaches can strive for.

John Chaney wasn’t a flashy coach. It simply wasn’t his style to be so. He was about hard work and about integrity. Even if you don’t agree with some of his tactics both on and off the court, the mere fact that he never exploited his kids, never jeopardized the reputation of his program or that of the university that employed him is a testament on how to be a successful college coach.

The college basketball ranks will miss this fiery giant but hopefully the life lessons he leaves will continue to bear fruit that even if you come from the rough parts of the inner city, somebody will believe in you and that in itself is all the hope you need to be a success. The old tradition may finally be leaving us with Chaney’s departure. He was a dinosaur amongst the coaching gazelles of today.

John Chaney exhibited all of that and then some and hopefully another coach will do the same for years to come.