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"Goon-gate" Strikes College Basketball: The Downfall of John Chaney.


John Chaney: Certified Unclassy.

John Chaney, Temple University's head basketball coach, has a career record of 722-294, good enough for fourth place among active coaches. Chaney's zone defenses are, year-in, year-out, among the best in the country; high school coaches across the country show film of Chaney's teams to teach the nuances of playing his brand of basketball.

He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001 for his career accomplishments.

Chaney threw all that away this week, tarnishing his legacy and disgracing his school.

Chaney, upset by what he considered poor officiating in a 63-56 loss to St. Joseph's University, sent in a "goon" to "send a message" (his own words) to the St. Joe's Hawks. The result: St. Joe's, a 15-9 team (12-1 in conference play) that still likely needs to win its conference tournament to make the NCAA tournament, now has a 6th-man with a broken arm. Chaney, at this point, has gotten off with a slap on the wrist.

The goon: Nehemiah Ingram, a 6-foot-8, 250-pound bench-warmer. Before the cheap shot that led to the broken arm, Ingram also threw elbows, landing blows on the jaws on at least two other Hawks players. Sports Illustrated reports that a "Temple spokesman said no disciplinary action was taken against Ingram."

The victim: St. Joseph's University's John Bryant, co-captain of his team, a model student athlete who has already graduated and is now attending graduate school. His basketball career is most likely over. Bryant said, of Chaney:

"I grew up watching Chaney, I still admire him, but I don't really understand the situation fully. It was just weird."

It was more than just weird, yet the incident was completely typical of John Chaney, a characteristic about which even the most devoted college basketball fanatics knew very little, because of always-glowing media coverage of Chaney.

As CBS points out, Chaney has a distinguished history of thuggery:

"Chaney once grabbed the neck of a rival coach, George Washington's Gerry Gimelstob, in 1984. Everyone looked the other way. That's just John Chaney.

Chaney once threatened to kill a rival coach, Massachusetts' John Calipari, in 1994. The threat was captured on video. It was embarrassing, a career-ending move for most coaches. Not for Chaney. Everyone looked the other way."

That's not the half of it. MSNBC notes a bizarre story from twelve years ago, very reminiscent of the latest incident:

"Remember the physical, 1993 NCAA West Region final? The day before the Michigan-Temple game in a news conference, Chaney asked his freshman brute of a center, William Cunningham, 'William, are you going to attack Chris Webber?'

'Answer,' the coach said to his embarrassed player.

'Yes,' Cunningham said.

Chaney raised his hands. 'We win,' he said. Temple went out and obliterated the line between aggressive and dirty before losing."

Not only was the "hit" Chaney put out on St. Joe's horrific, it was pre-meditated rather than in the heat of coaching passion (not that doing it in the heat of the moment would have made his actions any more acceptable)[also from MSNBC]:

"The day before he sent Ingram out as an enforcer, Chaney was on a conference call with reporters. He bemoaned what he called illegal screens set by Saint Joseph's players and said he would dispatch 'one of my goons and have him run through one of those guys and chop him in the neck or something.'"

After the game, when it became clear that Bryant was seriously injured, Chaney did not seem concerned:

"That's what happens. I'm a mean, ornery SOB."

Rick Majerus, former coach of Utah (and for about a week this season, of U.S.C.) and current analyst for ABC and ESPN, was ready to excuse Chaney for his actions on Saturday, saying that any young man would be lucky to have the opportunity play for John Chaney. Majerus went even further over the top, saying he personally would have been honored to have been able to play for Chaney. While still a coach, it must be noted that Majerus was removed as a voter in the ESPN/USA Today's basketball coaches' poll for slotting in Temple at number 9, despite the Owls' 6-12 record. Majerus subsequently wrote a letter of apology for the incident, blaming the flub on his assistant.

Majerus said Chaney's suspension for the remainder of the regular season is appropriate, because of Chaney's history, and because Chaney was contrite. Indeed, Chaney labels himself "contrite," according to Sports Illustrated:

"Chaney said he called Bryant on Friday morning to apologize and also said he planned to talk to his parents. Chaney also offered to pay for Bryant's medical bills."

That's too little, too late. Chaney could have expressed contrition before he realized his legacy was on the line. But he didn't. He chose to tell reporters, "that's what happens."

In a just world, Chaney would face both criminal and civil charges, spend at least a few nights in jail, and be removed from the Basketball Hall of Fame. At the least. His entire career also ought to have an asterik by it. Any biography of Chaney must have the word "goon" in the title.


Chaney has been exposed as a fraud. His punishment, a mere 3-game suspension, is not enough. Chaney should not even be given the dignity of resigning. He should be fired, and fired very publicly. He should be humiliated and disgraced, an example made of his recent actions within the context of his entire nefarious career of bullying.

What's even worse is that Chaney's unclassy leadership has created an atmosphere of hooliganism at his school (as described by USA TODAY):

"Some Temple students spit in the direction of Bryant and Saint Joe's cheerleaders and booed when Bryant got up and walked off the court....

'These actions are not indicative of what I represent and I regret them immensely,' Chaney said."

Actually, John, they are precisely indicative of everything you have represented over your career, and while you may have regret, the students were merely following your example.

One wonders what Bill Cosby, proud Temple alumnus, would have to say about all this this, given his recent history of controversies.


Bottom line, John Chaney ended a player's career through cheap violence. For that, he should forfeit his own career. If John Chaney coaches another basketball game this or any other year, it will be a travesty.

Posted by Will Franklin · 27 February 2005 04:57 PM