Hall of Fame basketball coach John Chaney, best known for making Temple University a mainstay on the national scene over his 24-year tenure, died Friday. He was 89.
Cheney died after a short illness, the school said in a statement.
Along with his contemporary John Thompson, the late Georgetown University coaching legend, Chaney was part of a small but successful fraternity of African American head coaches throughout much of their storied careers.
Considered one of the most respected coaches in all sports, the feisty, gravelly-voiced Chaney had a reputation for driving his student players to greatness on the court and in the classroom.
“John Chaney was a great coach, but he was so much more,” Temple President Richard M. Englert, who knew Chaney since he arrived at Temple in 1982, said in a statement on the school’s website. “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. With conviction. I am also honored to say he was a dear friend.”
Born Jan. 21, 1932, in Jacksonville, Florida, Chaney spent his entire coaching career in Pennsylvania, starting at Philadelphia’s Sayre Junior High, where his teams won 59 of 68 games. He later coached at Simon Gratz High School in Philadelphia “and quickly turned a struggling 1-17 club into a perennial winner,” the school reported.
Before coming to Temple, Chaney also coached for 10 years at Cheyney State University, where he compiled a 225-59 record and guided the team to the NCAA Division II title in 1978.
Upon taking the helm at Temple, Chaney quickly turned the Philadelphia school into a powerhouse, leading the team to the NCAA tournament 17 times in his first 19 seasons, including five Elite Eight appearances. He retired in 2006 with a record of 516–253 at the school and a career record of 741-312.
He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001.
“Coach Chaney was like a father to me,” current Temple coach Aaron McKie, who played for Chaney for four seasons beginning in 1991, said in a statement. “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.”
Chaney also earned a reputation as a complete player. He starred at Benjamin Franklin High School in Philadelphia, where he won Most Valuable Player honors.
Later, at Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Florida, Chaney earned NAIA All-American and Most Valuable Player honors during the 1953 NAIA Championships.
As a professional player in the Eastern Basketball League, Chaney was named all-pro six times and earned the league’s MVP award in 1959 and 1960. He even doubled as a coach for two seasons.
In 1955, he graduated from Bethune-Cookman College and later received a master’s degree from Antioch College.