The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

Jed WalentasJed WalentasDaily Pennsylvanian Sports Writer Temple sophomore Huey Futch paused and looked at the ceiling of McGonigle Hall before grabbing the bottom of his shorts and breathing deeply. This was not what he wanted to hear at 7:30 a.m. He had been running curls around staggered screens for nearly half an hour. Futch wanted to sit a rotation out. He wanted some water. John Chaney didn't care. You see, Futch didn't wait quite long enough to run that last curl. With Atlantic 10 Players of the Year Eddie Jones and Aaron McKie departed for the NBA, Temple has no scintillating player who can break down his man off the dribble on Chaney's bark-like command. So the Owls' sideline maestro has to spend even more time every morning teaching. Teaching is what Chaney does. Teaching is his passion. For 13 years now, his class has begun at 5:30 a.m. sharp on North Broad Street. Even in the dank classroom that is McGonigle Hall every morning before dawn, Chaney teaches more than Xs and Os. He teaches more than the box-outs and defensive switches that make up the most suffocating match-up zone defense college basketball has ever seen. "His character and demeanor is unique in that his concern is not with wins or losses on the court but in life for his players," said Penn senior guard Jerome Allen, who was recruited by Chaney. "His only concern is how his players fare after basketball. He teaches the game of life." Chaney's philosophy on basketball, teaching and life. He grew up with his mother on the south side of Philadelphia. According to Chaney, his shack on 17th and Elsworth still exists, although it greatly resembles the Leaning Tower of Pisa. He would walk to a court on Broad and Green everyday to hone his basketball skills, spending the 10 cents his mother gave him for the trolley on a bag of broken cookies. Chaney remembers hanging on to the back of the South Street trolley as a kid to go to Big 5 doubleheaders at the Palestra. He remembers buying a fresh pretzel outside before watching his heroes. Like the Palestra, many feel Chaney has become a fixture in Philadelphia basketball. "He is an institution in Philadelphia," Penn coach Fran Dunphy said. "He's been great for the city, the game of basketball, and for Temple University. He's a man of great integrity and character. He always speaks his mind and everything he says is well thought out. He is a tremendous influence on his kids." Education, Chaney says, changed his life. "For most blacks, college was not an aspiration. That cost money," he said. "The NBA was not a thought. There were almost no blacks in the Big 5, so there was nothing for me to look up to," Chaney said. A man by the name of Sam Brown put Chaney on his club basketball team. Several years later, Chaney won the Public League MVP in 1951 as a senior at Ben Franklin High School. In the Public League championship game that year, Chaney's squad bowed in the finals. "They had to put a box and one on me," Chaney recalled, grinning. "They better have." Brown, the only father-figure in Chaney's life, convinced him college was the right choice. The following fall, he enrolled at Florida's Bethune Cookman College. "I went there to play basketball," Chaney said. "At the time, I thought I would be young and vibrant and dribbling a basketball forever. One of my teachers, Carol Meeks, flunked me and that was the end of basketball for a while. That made me realize how important an education was. I didn't want to come back to Philly and work at Sears-Roebuck. Every year I call her and thank her." Today, Chaney provides the roll of Mr. Brown and Mrs. Meeks to almost every one of his players. He stresses education. He stresses discipline, to which the 6 a.m. practices are a testament. Chaney rarely passes up an opportunity to speak his mind about giving inner-city youths an opportunity to get an education through their basketball talent. Chaney remembers his roots. He remembers when higher education was not an option for blacks. For many, he has changed that. Ask Jones. Ask McKie. "He contributes more to young people than anyone in the profession," La Salle coach Speedy Morris said. "Very few people have touched their players the way John Chaney has. If he's your friend he'll do anything for you. Talk to any one of his players and they'll tell you that Coach Chaney will do anything for them. He'll give them whatever they need -- emotionally or monetarily. He's done that." The two-time Coach of the Year takes more pride in the success of his players than any honors he receives. The man with seven 25-win seasons spends most of his time talking about his players. The 10 players that have gone on to the NBA in 11 seasons. The players that call him once a week from anywhere in the world. Jones, McKie and former star Mark Macon call at least once a week. Mike Vreeswyck calls frequently from Japan. "Once," Chaney recalled with a chuckle, "one of my guys called me from Italy. He said, 'Hi Coach, I've got a game in a couple minutes. Gotta go.' He just called to say he loved me."

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.