Locals reflect on the legendary Temple coach’s impact while a student at Bethune-Cookman.
BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Local residents are mourning the loss of renowned college coach John Chaney, who died on Jan. 29 at the age of 89.
Chaney began his basketball career as a player at Bethune-Cookman University (then Bethune-Cookman College) from 1951 to 1955. He is a member of the school’s athletic Hall of Fame.
He spent most of his coaching career at Temple University, which became one of the nation’s top basketball programs under his direction. He is the first Black coach to win 700 games at the NCAA Division I level.
Played with McClairen
Chaney was born in Jacksonville on Jan. 21, 1932. His family later moved to Philadelphia during World War II.
He was a teammate of longtime Bethune-Cookman coach and athletics administrator, Jack “Cy’’ McClairen, who died on Dec. 28. The two remained friends over the years.
Chaney and McClairen helped the Wildcats win the 1952-53 Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship (SIAC) and the Black College National Championship.
At Bethune-Cookman, Chaney had four All-SAIC selections and both NAIA All-American and NAIA All-American honors.
B-CU Vice President of Intercollegiate Athletics Lynn Thompson weighed in on Chaney.
“We chatted for an hour after Coach Cy passed,” Thompson said. “He was set to participate in the event honoring Cy’s legacy, but I guess God must have needed another Wildcat Hall of Famer to do something special.”
‘A perfect jump shot’
Harold Lucas was a teammate of Chaney’s at Bethune-Cookman.
“He was one of the best basketball players to ever come out of Bethune-Cookman,” Lucas recalled. “He had a perfect jump shot and fade away. He was a good dribbler.”
During time as classmates, Lucas also noticed Chaney’s personality.
“He was a funny guy, but he was also a very serious guy. He was fun on the court, but he was serious off the court,” Lucas said.
Several Bethune-Cookman teammates recalled that Chaney had an everlasting effect on those he came across.
“His presence and ability to become involved in different situations will be missed. He had an impact, which set an example. I quit basketball so that I could watch him play,” noted Lucas.
Chaney sits atop the Bethune-Cookman records books. He is arguably the school’s all-time leading scorer, but records can’t be confirmed since some were lost during a fire. It was recorded that Chaney scored 57 points against Knoxville in 1952. It’s also recorded that he had four-point games.
After Bethune-Cookman, Chaney played professional basketball in the Eastern Basketball League, where he went all-pro six times and was named MVP in 1959 and 1960. He also had a stint playing with the Harlem Globetrotters.
From Cheyney to Temple
Chaney began his coaching career at the high school level, with success at Philadelphia’s Sayer Junior High and Simon Gratz High School.
Before Temple, Chaney made his mark coaching at Division II Cheyney State (now Cheyney University), an HBCU in Pennsylvania. He built that program into a powerhouse. In 10 seasons, he led the program to 225-59 with a .849 winning percentage, eight national tournament appearances and the Division II national title in 1978.
At Temple, Chaney led the Owls for 24 seasons going 741-312. During his tenure, the Owls had 17 NCAA tournament appearances and five Elite Eight appearances. He was named Division I Coach of the Year twice, and his 1987- 88 squad ended the regular season ranked No. 1 in the country.
Hall of Famer
His reputation was that of being a fiery coach, shaping boys into men and getting them an education.
Chaney was named to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001 and College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.
Chaney also received a master’s degree from Antioch College.
Funeral services for Chaney will be held on Feb. 8 at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A public viewing will be from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m., and a private family viewing will be at 2 p.m. His homegoing service will be at 3 p.m.
Chaney is survived by his wife, Jeanne Dixon, daughter Pamela and sons Daryl and John Jr.