To call John Chaney one of college basketball’s larger-than-life figures might be understating it.
The man not only had Temple among the game’s top programs (five Elite Eights, 8 league titles) for most of his 24-year tenure, but his off-court antics ensured he’d be remembered as a guy who didn’t conform to people’s set standards.
And usually, that was a good thing.
Chaney was a guy who doubled as a coach and father figure to his players, helping guys who often came from broken homes, violent neighborhoods or bad schools and ensured they benefited from college. He often said he biggest goal was simply to give poor kids a chance to get an education.
Six years after he retired and now 80, Chaney still believes that. This feature from Mike Kern of the Philadelphia Daily News catches up with Chaney and how’s he’s spending retirement. It’s mostly a fun read – he’s quite a cook – but I found this extended quote telling:
“I wish I could have become a lawyer or a judge, somebody who could change how people live, who set the rules,” Chaney says. “That’s the only thing missing from what I really wanted to do. That’s so important. You look at the Republicans. They get up there and when they do answer a question, it is the most ridiculous I’ve ever heard. And the people in the audience clap. I mean, what kind of world is this?
“Poor people have a tendency to inflict harm on each other,” he continues. “And I don’t see an end to it. That’s pretty sad. We’re a society that cannot find a medium, a middle ground, for everybody. That’s frustrating, man. If people could just once rule this world with their hearts, instead of their minds, there would be no problems. If I had a magic wand, I’d go about [getting rid of] every bad person in this world, I swear to God. That’s the way I feel. There’s a lot of people without a heart.
“When I turn the television on, then I become very pissed off. Especially when someone goes on the air and tells a lie. That drives me out of my mind. And I can’t go through the television to tell them that.”
This is why he’s on the golf course and not watching lots of TV.
Few people would say Chaney wasted his time or failed to make an impact on people’s lives. Perhaps Chaney thinks different, but this’d be one of the few instances in which he’s wrong.
He’s a guy who earned every minute of a relaxing retirements. But I do like the idea of him as a judge who has a fierce sense of right and wrong. That woulda made for compelling stories as well.
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