This story was originally published on October 5, 2001.
Nate Blackwell heard John Chaney before he ever saw the man. He can remember where he was, the exact spot, when Chaney first stormed into his life, more than 20 years ago.
"I was standing in the lobby at Cheyney State, at his basketball camp. I might have been in ninth or 10th grade," said Blackwell, now Chaney's top assistant at Temple. "I was talking to Bruiser Flint and I think I said a curse word. "
Chaney appeared out of nowhere, from right behind Blackwell.
"He just lit into me about my language, how he's going to send me home," Blackwell said. "I was like, 'Who is this man? ' "
Tonight, the man will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. All of Chaney's accomplishments will be trotted out. The 17 NCAA appearances in 19 seasons. The five Elite Eights, two in the last three years as he approaches his 70th birthday in January. The Division II national title at Cheyney State.
Chaney will stand and talk and get teary-eyed, and he may never stop. But here, we'll let the people who will never forget the rasping voice and constant demands and eternal quest for ribs and Popeye's chicken (no biscuits!) on the road have their say. They all seem to remember exactly where they were when Chaney entered their lives. They all have stories to tell.
Chaney's longest practice? Perhaps it was after Temple was whipped by Tulane almost 10 years ago.
"The next day was the Super Bowl," said Chris Squeri, a Temple manager from 1990 to '96, the last two years as a graduate assistant. "We got home at like 11 o'clock. It was snowing. We had to be at the gym at 9 o'clock the next morning. Coach goes for 3 1/2 hours, then we went in the classroom for three hours, watched the tape of the game, plus the tape of another game he just wanted to watch; it could have been a pro game.
"Then we go back on the court. He talks forever. He lets us go at 6 or 6:30. The practice ended like two minutes before the Super Bowl started. Nobody even felt like watching the Super Bowl. "
"Three days in, I think I was ready to quit," said Kevin Clifton, a freshman on Chaney's first Temple team in 1982-83. "I wasn't used to that type of verbal and physical demands. I was ready to call my mom and say, 'I can't take it. It's too hard. ' But I stuck it out.
"It was the best four years of my life. "
Ed Coe, who was already at Temple when Chaney arrived, now is a senior field coordinator for General Motors based in Dallas: "Those early-morning practices, you could not be late. Even if you had one sock on, you got on the court. One day, two guys, they were like five minutes late. I think it was Dwight Forrester and Terence Stansbury, who was the star of that team. They ran the whole practice. For something like two hours, they ran. The only thing he kept saying: 'Oh, you want to be a superstar, huh? ' "
A lot of guys, Coe said, needed that discipline in their lives.
When Pepe Sanchez arrived from Argentina in 1996, he quickly figured out that his life had changed.
"He taught me how to play, how to think," Sanchez said from the Atlanta Hawks' training camp. "He just toughens up your mind. He's constantly on your case for four years. After you go through that process, nothing bothers you. I don't get sensitive about my teammates or my coaches saying things. I used to be really sensitive. He really changes that. I think that's the same for Aaron McKie or Eddie Jones or Rick Brunson. We just play.
"At some point in the last two years, I felt really comfortable playing for him. But as soon as I did, he sensed that, and he did something to make me feel uncomfortable. I would have 14 assists and one turnover in a game. The game would end at 11 o'clock. We'd come back at 5:30 the next morning and I'd be yelled at for a half hour because of the turnover. "
Said Clifton of Chaney's central message: "It still radiates in your brain, even in recreational ball. Don't turn the ball over. We look at games - former players in the stands - it never changes. No turnovers. "
Anthony Pinnie was Chaney's assistant at Cheyney State: "He'd have the manager keep turnovers. For every turnover you had in practice, you'd line up against the wall and get paddled that many times. He'd do that once in a while. Bring it out for the new guys. "
Ernest Pollard, now a city police officer who runs a Police Athletic League center in North Philadelphia, was the first Proposition 48 student-athlete at Temple under Chaney. Proposition 48 set test and grade-point requirements for freshman athletes on scholarships, and Pollard had to sit out as a freshman.
"He fought so hard to get us," Pollard said. "He was on the news talking about it. He was always preaching to us Prop 48 guys at practice, that people didn't think we could come through. He pushed us so hard academically. If you couldn't take it, you couldn't take it. Some players that come through, they have to leave it. "
Pollard remembers when he almost left Temple: "I was pretty upset, with myself mostly. Things about playing time, things going on with me. I sort of lost it. I came late one practice. My junior year. He kicked me out. I was upset with him. The first thing he did was call my mom. He could have said, 'You want to quit, go ahead. We've got plenty of players. '
"He knew I wasn't one of the players who was going pro. But he hung in there with me. My mother called me at the dorm. She said, 'It wouldn't be too smart [to quit]. If it wasn't for him giving you a scholarship, you wouldn't have a chance to get a degree. I couldn't afford to send you to college. ' He knew how close I was to getting my degree. "
Squeri said of the days when Chaney railed against the Prop 48 restrictions: "When I used to work basketball camps, I would almost get in fights with kids and coaches. They'd say he was racist. I'd say, 'You don't even know the man. ' I'm an Italian-Irish kid from Queens. He gave me a scholarship for four years and kept me for two years of graduate school. "
Drew Golin went on scholarship as a manager after Squeri.
"We wore the same shoe size," Golin said of Chaney. "I was always walking around in $25 khaki pants and $500 Bruno Maglis. I always said he was the greatest boss I ever had. The first day, our roles were defined. Everyone knew where they were supposed to be. "
After John DiSangro spent his undergraduate years as a manager, he became Chaney's executive assistant. Now DiSangro is Temple's director of basketball operations.
"He watches guys come on the bus," DiSangro said. "If he sees a guy who doesn't have a hat on, he goes crazy. That's a big thing, hats and gloves. And guys carrying their sneaks. Not wearing the same sneaks they're going to play in. You don't track mud on the floor. That's always been a huge thing from the first day. "
So many of the stories don't have anything to do with basketball.
"He doesn't eat much before a game," DiSangro said. "He wants his soup and his coffee. He wants chicken soup with just broth. You're trying to convince the people in the restaurant to take the chicken out. It's like a big argument. They're skimming the soup, trying to get all the noodles and the vegetables out. "
In the summer, the first place to look for Chaney is on the tennis court. Temple basketball analyst John Baum, who played for five years in the NBA, would talk to Chaney about playing tennis with him.
"He always told me that I wasn't in his league yet," Baum said. "That I wasn't ready to play at his level. We talked about it. I went up to Awbury Recreation Center - that's his main hangout. He'd tell me to go over to the wall and hit balls. I'd tell him, 'I'm ready. ' He'd say, 'No, go back to the wall. ' I'd look over and he's playing doubles with women. I never did get to play with him. "
Demopoulos told about the time he locked his keys in his car when he and Chaney were heading for Harrisburg on a recruiting visit to see Quincy Wadley.
"He'd always meet me at the mall at King of Prussia, in the parking lot," Demopoulos said. "He was always a little late, coming out of Saks, or whatever. I was at my car, standing up looking for him. I took out my briefcase. Slammed the door. I realized the car was running. The doors were locked. I'm not saying anything. I just didn't want to listen to him. I decided to leave it.
"We always took his car. He gets out of his car and goes to the other side. I'd get in the driver's seat. I always drove. I figured my car would run out of gas and he'd drop me off and then I'd get somebody to open it and I'd go get some gas.
"As soon as I go to pull away - we're almost away - he goes, 'I think your car is running. ' I said, 'No, it's not. ' I start driving away. He made me drive back. I couldn't believe it. He can't hear. He can't see. But he noticed. I just didn't want to listen to him bust on me. Not just the two hours to Harrisburg. For the rest of my life. "
Demopoulos said Chaney actually didn't say much about it: "I think he really liked the fact that I would go to that length not to tell him. "
Occasionally, his players have thought of an angle Chaney didn't have covered.
"He always wants the women to have as much time on the court," said Drew Golin, a manager from 1995 to 2000. "That was always big with him. As soon as he saw the first women's player come in, the practice was over. So the players got the idea they'd tell the women's players to come on out there."
You know the one-eyed-jack stare Chaney would fix on referees? You wouldn't figure him to be on the favorites list of any officials. You'd be wrong, according to Mickey Crowley, the supervisor of officials for the Atlantic Ten Conference.
"Everybody sees him. They say, 'Boy, how do you deal with that guy?' " said Crowley, who officiated many big Temple games and is retiring as the league's supervisor after this season. "If there's any coach in the country that's loved by referees, it's Chaney. He will explode. But he is so up-front. And 99 percent of the time, he's sitting there. "
Crowley tells two stories. One was about the Temple game Crowley worked at Nevada-Las Vegas. A UNLV player on the bench tapped a ball going out of bounds back onto the court, leading to the game-winning basket in the final seconds. The referees didn't see it, and neither did anybody from Temple until a tape was played a few days later.
"About five days later, I'm working at Temple. I felt awful. As we get ready to start the game, I went to say something to Chaney. He sticks his finger in my nose. He says, 'I don't want to hear a word from you. You couldn't have possibly seen what happened. I was closer to the play than you were and I didn't see it. So you just shut up and go referee. ' "
Another time, Crowley was at McGonigle Hall working a game: "John was up quite a few points, which for him was probably about six points. Near the end, he didn't have any time-outs. He wanted to get a sub in. He's screaming at me. I'm like, what is he talking about? He never hollers at me. He keeps screaming, 'I've got to get a sub in. ' I call a three-second violation [against Temple]. All 10 guys are in the backcourt. He starts screaming, 'How can it be three seconds? There's nobody in the frontcourt. ' I said, 'You want the sub in or don't you? ' He said, 'Oh, yeah, good idea.' "
Jason Ivey, now an assistant coach at Missouri-Kansas City, played at Temple from 1992 to '96. Then he played professionally in Australia and China before he suffered a broken ankle. That's when he went home to Alabama and worked on a production line.
That work quickly gave him the idea to call his old coach, who worked it out so Ivey could work in Temple's basketball office as a graduate assistant.
"That got me where I am today," Ivey said.
The image of Chaney as father figure was always true in his case, Ivey added.
"He's such a perfectionist, so serious on the court. A lot of people were always like, 'How could you play for him? ' But off the court, he was always laughing. He always had some crazy food he wanted you to try, some pickled pigs feet or something. "
Ivey was one of several freshmen playing against Michigan in the NCAA West Regional final in 1993.