Chaney writes his own zero-tolerance policy |

Chaney writes his own zero-tolerance policy

John Chaney is still teaching kids that basketball is war when he should know better.

It’s the same thing Bob Knight does, under the same banner of “molding” men, and it’s led to some of the same excesses.

But maybe when someone has been doing things one way all his life, it’s the rest of us who should know better than to expect him to change. So for the time being, stash the outrage over the dangerous stunt Chaney pulled last week. It will come back to haunt him soon enough.

This episode won’t mark the end of Chaney’s run at Temple. Not yet, anyway. The timid punishment handed down by university president David Adamany demonstrated that.

But you can see the end from here. Rest assured that the next time Chaney rushes into battle will be the last time he does so while drawing a paycheck from the Philadelphia school. Adamany doesn’t have to draw up a zero-tolerance policy; his 73-year-old icon of a coach did it for him. All that’s left for the president to do now is wait Chaney out.

What happened Tuesday night has been recounted and replayed dozens of times, increasingly followed by calls for Chaney’s resignation or firing. That’s because for all the good Chaney has done, it was hardly unprecedented. Fouls don’t get much more flagrant or intentional than this.

The day before his squad played host to local rival Saint Joseph’s, Chaney threatened to use one of his own kids to “send a message” to the refs: if they wouldn’t do something about what he insisted were illegal screens set by the Hawks’ players, he would. And being a man of his word, Chaney did.

He sent Nehemiah Ingram, a player he would later refer to as a “goon,” into the game with instructions to knock some Saint Joseph’s players around. Ingram is a bruising 6-foot-8, 250-pounder who describes himself as “good at heart” ” “My mama raised me in the church,” he added ” but nonetheless did exactly what he was told.

After the game, Chaney crowed about Ingram’s handiwork, but it didn’t last long.

One of the players Ingram knocked to the floor, senior forward John Bryant, will miss the rest of the season with a broken arm. Once it became clear that the damage Chaney’s act caused wasn’t simply limited to the integrity of the game, both the school and the Atlantic 10 Conference had to do something. Laughably, they extended his self-imposed suspension from one game to three.

The only good thing about the entire incident is that it happened at Temple instead of Saint Joseph’s, where chances are it would have touched off a melee. Because Chaney would have been done, right then and there. And a guy who’s handed out so many chances to kids of all stripes has earned at least one more for himself.

That’s one more than a few people would argue is fair, since Bryant will be cheated out of what should have been the best few weeks of his career, Saint Joseph’s will be forced to defend its regular-season league title without a key role player, and any coach who didn’t have Chaney’s stature would likely be out of a job already. But the last part is precisely the point.

Chaney never graduated as many kids as he should have, but it’s worth remembering that on sum, most of those who came into contact with him will swear he had an impact on their lives, helped determine what they did when they left the team and in plenty of cases, he helped get them there.

That’s why guys like Chaney become coaches in the first place and why, so long as they’re successful, they get away with everything short of inciting a riot. Because they can lead. Chaney could, too ” once. He’s in the Hall of Fame for good reason, but Chaney hasn’t ever been to the Final Four, hasn’t taken Temple to the NCAA tournament the last three seasons, and no longer operates the baddest program in his own town anymore. That would be Saint Joe’s, which has beaten the Owls ” illegal screens or not ” the last six times they’ve met.

Temple’s days as a national program are in the past. Chaney sacrificed more than most big-time coaches and made do with less for a long time. But the real fight, the one that has to do with Chaney’s survival, may just be beginning.

Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at

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