King Kaufman's Sports Daily

Temple basketball coach John Chaney has handled himself admirably in the wake of a terrible act. But he still should go.


Salon Staff
March 2, 2005 1:00AM (UTC)

John Chaney's schedule for the rest of the day: Apologies at 1:30, 4 and 8, with announcements of late-breaking additional self-suspensions at 2 and 5:30, and self-flagellation and fasting at 6.

The Temple men's basketball coach will continue his Woody Hayes Memorial Tour of Atonement until his position for 2005-06 season is secure.

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In a world in which the non-apology apology has become the standard for public figures, John Chaney has been admirably genuine in his remorse for the actions that led to the end of a St. Joseph's player's career. He's been admirable in a lot of other ways too during a coaching life that's already put him in the Hall of Fame.

But he has to go. John Chaney should resign, and if he doesn't resign, Temple should fire him.

Apologies are nice, they're a good start. But they're only a start. As St. Joseph's University said in a statement, "There is no place in college basketball for this type of behavior." Chaney, by his own statements, seems to agree. He should act accordingly.

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As you no doubt know, Chaney sent a player into a game against St. Joe's last week to commit hard fouls. He had threatened to do so in an earlier media conference call if game officials failed to whistle the Hawks for what Chaney believed were illegal screens. He was true to his word, sending in seldom-used Nehemiah Ingram, who is 6-foot-8, 250 pounds, to act as a "goon," in Chaney's word.

Ingram took four minutes to commit five fouls, the last of which was a full-body takedown of senior forward John Bryant, a St. Joe's role player, who suffered a broken right arm, ending his season and career. Moments earlier, Ingram had nearly taken the head off of a Hawks player with a thrown elbow.

Chaney suspended himself for one game, which was just odd. Can you suspend yourself? Isn't that just known as taking a day off? When the extent of Bryant's injury became known, Temple suspended him for the rest of the regular season, which was two more essentially meaningless games, since the Owls are not in the running for the Atlantic 10 championship.

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Ingram apologized, saying he hadn't meant to hurt anybody and that he was just following coach's instructions to commit some hard fouls. He hasn't been punished. That seems right to me. I suppose he could have taken a stand and refused to do what Chaney asked, but I think standing up to a Hall of Fame coach is asking too much of a 22-year-old kid who doesn't have the juice of being a star player.

On Monday, in a surprise move, Chaney suspended himself again, this time for the conference tournament, saying that since Bryant won't be able to play because of Chaney's actions, Chaney shouldn't be able to coach. It's unclear whether he'll coach the Owls should they win the conference tournament and reach the NCAA Tourney, or, more likely, should they make the National Invitational Tournament.

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In the meantime, he continues to coach the team at practice, which takes some of the sting out of his suspension, don't you think? As heartfelt as his apologies have been -- and he's made them personally to Bryant and his family, even offering to cover the kid's medical bills -- they and sitting out a few games just aren't enough.

Chaney has done a lot of good in his career. He's already in the Hall of Fame, mostly for what he's done at Temple, taking the undermanned program to the NCAA Tournament 17 times and acting as a powerful advocate for his mostly underprivileged players, who swear by him. He also had success in 10 seasons at Cheyney State, winning a Division II championship, and he's been a leader in promoting the cause of black coaches.

But Bob Knight did a lot of good at Indiana too. And Woody Hayes did plenty of good at Ohio State. They had to go, and so does Chaney.

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Though Chaney is famously a hothead, to the point of just being plain weird sometimes, the reports of antic anger mismanagement haven't come as hot and heavy as they have in the career of Knight, whom Chaney has compared himself to, calling himself "a black Knight."

But there have been incidents. In the two most famous, he slapped a player during a timeout in 1992 and he got into a one-way screaming match with then-UMass coach John Calipari at a postgame press conference in 1994.

What everyone remembers about that videotaped tirade is Chaney, being restrained, yelling, "I'll kill you!" at Calipari, which he clearly meant in the sense of "I'll kick your ass," which he also yelled. But here's something else he shouted, "That's why I'm gonna tell my kid to knock your fucking kid in the mouth!"

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So it's not like this whole goon idea just popped into his head last week.

St. Joe's is right. There's no place for attacks on players in college basketball. Maybe that's the way it was done back in the day, back in the neighborhood, out on the playground. Still is. And that's fine.

But this isn't the day, the neighborhood or the playground. This is college basketball, which has enough problems with rampant cheating, hypocrisy and corruption. It doesn't need coaches engaging in conspiracy to commit assault and battery.

I think Chaney, who is 73, is going to ride this out. Temple and the Atlantic 10 have taken the bold position of pretty much doing nothing and can be counted on for more of the same, so if he's going to lose his job, he's going to have to do the losing himself.

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It wouldn't surprise me if he decides to coach another year or two, maybe more, on his best behavior. That way this incident will have receded into the past by the time he retires, and it won't be the giant, punctuating stain on his legacy it would have been had it come at the end of his career.

Well, legacy is an overused word these days, and it's probably an overrated concept, but if Chaney really cares about his legacy he'll do the honorable thing and resign, and then do some real work to make up for his misdeeds.

Publicly taking an anger-management class would be a good start. And then how about setting up and becoming the spokesman for some kind of institute that teaches sportsmanship and conflict resolution?

Having a legacy means having a lasting impact. It doesn't just mean riding out the storm and keeping your job.

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