Iconic Temple University basketball coach John Chaney died Friday at age 89, the school said in a statement. Cheney, who was best known for coaching the men’s basketball team to victory, died following “a short illness,” the university said.
“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 the school’s statement. “I am also honored to say he was a dear friend.”
In the 70s, Chaney coached at Cheyney University and Simon Gratz High School, turning Cheyney’s team into a Division II dynasty and making Simon Gratz High School “a perennial winner,” the university said.
Before he arrived at Temple, the men’s basketball program “had never participated in back-to-back NCAA Tournaments,” the university said. But when Chaney took the lead, 23 of his 24 teams appeared in postseason tournaments, and 17 went to the National Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament.
In 1987, Chaney received the Henry Iba Award for the best college basketball coach of the year. In 2001, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Chaney was known for demanding the best from his team, with an intense focus on advocacy and mentorship. He “drove his student-athletes to excellence on the court while teaching them to succeed off it” the university said.
He also commanded the respect of his coaching peers. According to the university, Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski once said, “I love John …His story is one of the great stories of anyone in our sport. I totally respect him.”
On Friday, Kentucky basketball head coach John Calipari posted a touching tribute to Chaney, calling him “a coaching icon, a Hall of Famer, a molder of young men, the ultimate competitor and a dear friend.”
“Coach Chaney and I fought every game we competed – as everyone knows, sometimes literally – but in the end he was my friend,” Calipari wrote. “Throughout my career, we would talk about basketball and life. I will miss those talks and I will my friend. Rest in peace, Coach!”
When Chaney retired from coaching in 2006, he said “It has never been a job for me, but a passion,” according to the university.
“When I look back, it will not be the wins and losses — but the people who influenced me and touched me greatly, and especially the men’s and women’s coaches and players who have made this university and my time here so special,” he added.