Black History Month In Focus: Legendary Temple Coach John Chaney Has Deep HBCU Roots

Last week the great John Chaney passed at age 89.

Chaney was the legendary head basketball coach at Temple by way of Cheyney State. Though best known for his coaching and passionate, hard-nosed mentoring at PWI Temple University, his roots are strongly tied to the HBCU community. 

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Chaney was a basketball star at Bethune-Cookman College during the 1950s and then launched his coaching career at Cheyney State University. 

Chaney, a Philly product, was a star, but in the post-point shaving scandal era of the early 1950s, had to head south to play ball. He landed in Daytona Beach at BCC in large part to his high school coach, Sam Brown, who convinced him that he should attend college. The HBCU experience ended up saving Chaney’s life. 

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Chaney stated the following at his Basketball Hall Of Fame Enshrinement, “They never put a ceiling on what you could learn. 

He also mentioned this, “They believed so strongly in building up the floor so you could reach all ceilings. They never said there’s a score that says you can’t do it. And I believed strongly in that. They believed in access and opportunity. And in turn they gave me a chance.”

 “And I know for sure it made a huge difference in my life.”

Chaney played years in the Old Eastern League before getting into coaching. Following a few high school jobs, he was hired at Cheyney State (now Cheyney University), which he led to the Division II National Championship in 1978. His record was (232-56) at Cheyney despite having a recruiting budget of just $700 in 1982. 

 In 1982 the Temple Owls came calling and Chaney became one of a few Black men at the D1 level to lead a predominantly white institution. Chaney competed against established powerhouse programs on a night in and night out basis and led the Owls to eight Atlantic-10 Conference championships and six conference tournament titles. He was also named Coach of the Year by the NABC, the UPI and the Associated Press in 1988. 

 In 2001 he was elected into the Basketball Hall Of Fame and into the College Basketball Hall Of Fame in 2006. 

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At the time of his induction in 2001, Chaney was just the third black college coach to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, behind Winston Salem-State’s Clarence “Big House” Gaines and Georgetown’s John Thompson. Like Thompson who passed away in the fall of 2020, Chaney was also mentored by Gaines.

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