John Chaney, Legendary Hall of Fame Basketball Coach at Temple University, Dies at 89

Creator: TOM MIHALEK | Credit: AP

Hall of Fame basketball coach John Chaney, a zone defense innovator who led Temple to 17 NCAA tournament appearances, has died at the age of 89.

The university said he died after a short, unspecified illness.

Chaney spent 24 seasons at Temple, beginning in 1982-83 — the only season his Owls failed to reach the NCAA tournament or NIT. He went to the Elite Eight on five occasions, and Temple was ranked No. 1 for a stretch during the 1987-88 season, when the Owls finished 32-2 and went 18-0 in Atlantic 10 play.

Before taking over at Temple, Chaney spent 10 seasons at Cheyney University, a Division II program about 30 miles outside Philadelphia. He went to eight Division II tournaments and won the national championship in 1978.

“John Chaney was a great coach, but he was so much more. 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 and with conviction,” Temple president Richard M. Englert said in a statement. “I am also honored to say he was a dear friend.”

Elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001 and the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006, Chaney won 516 games at Temple and 741 games overall. He still ranks among the top 40 college basketball coaches in career wins and was the first Black coach to reach 700 wins.

Chaney won the Henry Iba Award, given to the Coach of the Year by the United States Basketball Writers Association, back-to-back in 1987 and 1988.

“Many of my players came from environments where people said they couldn’t do it,” Chaney told The Athletic in 2019. “I came from an era where it could end before being fulfilled. You have to move into a better place, in our minds and for our future. So many of them were able to change who they were. They ended up being what Temple’s statement has always been. Young acres of diamonds, right from the neighborhood, being told they could have the same kind of opportunity as everyone else.”

On the court, Chaney was known for his matchup zone defense, a strategy that confounded opponents for decades and annually had Temple among the leaders in scoring defense.

“If a team has never faced a Temple zone, it’s really difficult to see and have a proper attack for it the first time, because you don’t know what defense is on,” former Temple guard Quincy Wadley told The New York Times in 2001. “You think it’s one defense the entire time, but it’s not. It’s several different defenses that we play.”

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SOURCE: ESPN, Jeff Borzello