Chaney Will Step Down As Coach at Temple

By Mark Schlabach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 14, 2006

John Chaney, whose loosened neckties, tenacious matchup zone defense and fiery personality were staples of the NCAA tournament during most of his 24-year career at Temple University, announced his retirement yesterday because of his wife's declining health and his program's fading success.

Chaney, 74, will not coach in Temple's NIT opening-round game against Akron tonight. He will be replaced on the bench by longtime assistant coach Dan Leibovitz, who probably will be among the candidates to replace him at the Philadelphia school. Chaney said his wife, Jeanne, was scheduled to have a medical procedure this week, but declined to specify her illness.

In 24 seasons, Chaney guided the Owls to more than 500 victories and six Atlantic 10 tournament championships. But the Owls failed to qualify for college basketball's biggest postseason event, the NCAA tournament, in each of the last five seasons.

"I have said all along that I would know when it would be time to step down and now is that time," Chaney said, wearing sunglasses and wiping away tears during a news conference in Philadelphia. "I want to thank Temple University, its fans and community for allowing me to do what I love for so long. It has never been a job for me, but a passion."

Chaney coached Temple to a 516-252 record, and his 741 victories overall rank fifth among active Division I coaches behind Arizona's Lute Olson, Oklahoma State's Eddie Sutton, Texas Tech's Bob Knight and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and 11th all-time. His teams played in the NCAA tournament in 17 of his first 19 seasons at Temple, reaching the region final five times. However, Chaney's teams never reached the Final Four.

Chaney is one of only 19 coaches to have coached in more than 1,000 games, and he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001. He started his coaching career at Division II Cheney State, leading it to the 1978 Division II national championship. He was twice named national coach of the year.

Chaney, a native of Jacksonville, Fla., also was a lightning rod for controversy. He often battled the NCAA over academic requirements for African American players and was an opponent of Proposition 48, the NCAA rule instituted in 1986 that required student-athletes to meet minimum grade-point averages and standardized test scores to become eligible to play collegiate sports.

Chaney talked about his role in educating disadvantaged students from the inner city.

"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. "Somewhere along the line, it will reverberate and they'll remember it."

Chaney's temper sometimes got the best of him. In 1984, he grabbed then-George Washington coach Gerry Gimelstob by the throat at halftime of a game. Ten years later, Chaney threatened to kill then-Massachusetts coach John Calipari at a postgame news conference and nearly assaulted him before security officers pulled him away. Chaney was suspended for one game by the Atlantic 10 and apologized to Calipari.

Last season, Chaney ordered seldom-used reserve Nehemiah Ingram to commit hard fouls in a game against Saint Joseph's. Ingram slammed Saint Joseph's player John Bryant to the floor, fracturing his arm. After the game, Chaney screamed at Atlantic 10 Commissioner Linda Bruno and called Ingram his "goon." Chaney later apologized to Bryant and his family and suspended himself from coaching for the remainder of the regular season and postseason.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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