By Jim Freeman
LAFOLLETTE, TN (WLAF) – Since childhood, the Tennessee Vols have been my favorite team. Though I do have some other teams I like and keep an eye on on occasion.
Temple is one such team. In March 1969, Temple beat my Vols in the NIT as I read the headline in the Knoxville Journal after getting the paper out of Mamaw Leinart’s mailbox. I was heartbroken. However, from there, I’d check on the Owls from time-to-time; especially after John Chaney became the head coach in the early ’80s.
Fast forward 30 years, it’s November 1999, and my Miami (Ohio) basketball team is getting ready to open the season at Philadelphia against Temple. I was preparing to broadcast the Miami – Buffalo home football game on Saturday all the while prepping for the Sunday afternoon game at the Liacouras Center in downtown Philly.
On Monday night, I’m in the basketball office watching film on Temple with my coach, Charlie Coles. Charlie’s eating popcorn out of a paper sack he’d brought from home. I say, I guess John Chaney’s watching film on us about now. Charlie shoots back, “Naw, John’s not watching film on us.” He goes on to say, “John doesn’t care a thing about what we do. He’s gonna make us play like he wants us to play,” said Coles.
Coach explained “John’s gonna run that ole, saggy 1-3-1 zone. He’s gonna pack it in to where we can’t get in the lane and force us to shoot from the outside all night and not allow any space for us to get a second shot.” Sure enough, come Sunday, 6th ranked Temple played the kind of game it wanted to play and won 60 to 47.
However, the next season, Temple, ranked 17th, played us at home at Millett Hall. Temple jumped out early and packed in that ole zone, but we started hitting outside shots and played our game winning 66 to 58.
It was a real treat getting to meet and visit with Coach Chaney before our home game. No doubt, he remains one of my heroes.
All the years before I’d see him on TV coaching with his tie loosened way down his shirt. Little did I know that he never wore his tie up tight around his collar. He came out of the locker room like that. He laughed when I asked him about that and responded in that raspy voice of his “I always wear my tie like this.”
One of the things I admired about him, besides his independence, was his discipline with his players. His practices were at 5 am. It kept them from being out late and had them showered and ready for class everyday.
The 89 year old Chaney died on Friday. He coached his last game 15 years ago and finished his career with a won-loss mark of 741–312. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 02/01/2021-6AM)