Controversy is no stranger to veteran Temple University basketball coach John Chaney. Over his 23 seasons at Temple, he has won 491 games and lost his temper in outrageous ways countless times.
Once, while being physically restrained at a post-game press conference, he shouted, “I will kill you” at University of Massachusetts coach John Calipari. Presumably the threat was more hyperbolic than homicidal. Presumably.
The 73 year old is as much bother figure as father figure. He can be intimidating and profane to everyone when he loses it, as well as stern and caring when it comes to his players, virtually all of whom are inner-city black kids from modest – or less – means.
He’s in college basketball’s Hall of Fame as well as society’s Halls of Blame and Shame.
But this time, he has pushed the envelope of obnoxious, boorish behavior too far. This time more than feelings were hurt.
The day before a recent loss to Philadelphia city rival St. Joseph’s, Chaney announced that he would go “goon” for retaliatory purposes if officials allowed St. Joseph’s to get away with what he termed “illegal” moving screens.
He made good, as it were, on his word to “send a message.” His “goon,” 6-8, 250-pound Nehemiah Ingram, picked up five fouls in four minutes, including a particularly blatant one that broke the arm of a St. Joseph’s player – ending the senior’s career.
Chaney is currently on suspension, which may or may not continue into post-season, tournament play – should Temple qualify for the first time since 2001. The university’s president, David Adamany, has said he will wait until after the season to decide Chaney’s fate.
What Adamany should do is look to Woody Hayes for precedent.
The late Ohio State football coach was also a Hall of Famer and a much bigger name – and a much bigger man — than John Chaney. His Buckeyes won five national championships. He also had interrupted his coaching career to join the Navy during World War II. He later commanded two destroyers in the Pacific.
And, yes, he had an infamously obstreperous, bullying side with those outside the Buckeye football family and was a tough, sometimes overbearing disciplinarian to play for. However, those on the inside, including black players such as two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin, said he played the father-figure role well.
But Hayes lost it big time when he punched an opposing player during a 1978 Gator Bowl loss to Clemson. The next day – the VERY NEXT DAY – he was fired.
The feeling among most sports fans was that it was an unfortunate way to leave a Hall of Fame career, but some things cannot be countenanced. Losing your temper and lashing out in such a fistic fashion was beyond the pale.
In Chaney’s case, the “goon” hit man incident was premeditated.
It wasn’t a rash act borne of a momentary lapse in judgment. It wasn’t a heat-of-the-moment response. Chaney’s previously trumpeted intent was to send out an enforcer to intimidate and rough up the opposition. That’s why the seldom-used Ingram had more fouls than minutes played against St. Joseph’s.
Remember that Hayes threw a senior citizen punch at a player in a football uniform, who was startled but certainly not hurt. The St. Joseph’s player, John Bryant, went to the hospital.
It’s time for President Adamany to do the right thing. Fire Chaney. Preferably last week.