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'True Philadelphia Jewel': John Chaney, Legendary Temple Owls Basketball Coach, Dies At 89

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The greatest basketball coach in Temple Owls history has died. John Chaney has died at the age of 89.

Chaney just celebrated his birthday on Jan. 21.

Chaney spent 24 seasons patrolling Temple's sidelines, compiling a 516-253 record during his Hall of Fame career. He was an institution in Philadelphia for decades.

On the court is how many will remember Chaney, but it's what he did off the court that really set him apart.

"He's a legendary figure, a true icon and his legacy is phenomenal. When he went out to recruit, there were a lot of moms, grandmoms, dads who said, 'you know what, I'm going to hand my son off to somebody who will be a great surrogate father for these young fellas,'" Fran Dunphy said.

Dunphy, who succeeded Chaney in 2006, says he did just that, making sure his student-athletes not only reached success on the court but in the classroom as well.

"He was very much into that and that was his way of saying, you know, I'm going to have you here and we're going to do great, great things, but it's not going to be easy. It's going to be a lot of work and you're going to come out of here a better man than when you first came here, and he accomplished that. Almost to a person," Dunphy said.

Chaney took the Owls to the NCAA tournament 17 times, including going into the 1988 tournament as the No. 1 ranked team in the nation. Chaney's teams reached the Elite Eight five teams.

He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001. The court at The Liacouras Center is named after the Hall of Famer.

"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 Englert said. "I am also honored to say he was a dear friend.

"For generations of his players, there is only one man whom they all lovingly called Coach even to this day. That was John Chaney. Our most sincere condolences go out to his wonderful family members. We will keep them all in our prayers."

Chaney was known for his matchup zone defense, a strategy that helped keep Temple among the leaders in scoring defense for decades.

Chaney especially frowned upon turnovers, even as a retired coach watching from the arena.

"We had a connection of talking every two, three, four weeks, whatever the season would be, and if we had too many turnovers the night before then I had a lengthier conversation, of which again, I didn't speak much. I only listened," Dunphy said.

But even those calls were welcomed from a man who meant so much to so many people at Temple, throughout the region and in the college basketball world.

"I think he was just a loved man and a respected man, and he just made everybody feel good," Dunphy said.

The news of Chaney's passing hit the sports world hard.

"Coach Chaney was like a father to me," said Aaron McKie, current Temple men's basketball coach and former player under Chaney. "He taught not just me, but all of his players more than just how to succeed in basketball. He taught us life lessons to make us better individuals off the court. I owe so much to him. He made me the man I am today."

Villanova Wildcats head coach Jay Wright called Chaney a "true Philadelphia jewel."

"Coach Chaney's enormous impact on our game has been felt across the nation and the respect for him reflects that. He has been an inspiration to players and coaches for generations," Wright said in a statement. "Coach has been a great friend to Patty and me. We send our condolences to the Chaney family and the entire Temple basketball community."

Congressman Dwight Evans talked to Eyewitness News about the mark Chaney left.

"John Chaney was somebody who really left an impression upon all of us and he left an impression upon this city. They used to have a little saying when John Chaney was there, that winning is an attitude and that was his attitude. He played fierce, forceful and he understood the aspects of the importance of human rights and people being involved," Evans said.

Chaney retired following the 2005-06 season.

Prior to his time at Temple, Chaney coached Cheney University for 10 years, capturing the NCAA Division II title in 1978. He finished with a 225-59 record for Cheney.

Chaney began his coaching career at Philadelphia's Sayre Junior High before going to Simon Gratz High.

CBS3's Don Bell,  Alecia Reid and Greg Argos contributed to this report.


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