- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 2, 2005

John Chaney, the provocateur of Philadelphia, is accustomed to receiving a free pass because of all his humanitarian work.

As you know, he helps little old ladies navigate dangerous intersections. He is a father figure to all too many of the fatherless basketball players who elect to play at Temple. He saves lives. You know the well-worn talking points. Chaney teaches life skills with a basketball in his hand, which, to be honest, is beside the point.

Chaney appears to have a serious anger-management problem, which is the point.

Chaney grabbed the neck of George Washington coach Gerry Gimelstob in 1984, long before Latrell Sprewell became synonymous with this persuasive interpersonal communication form. Chaney threatened to kill Massachusetts coach John Calipari in 1994. He also expressed a desire to take a bat to his big men after losing to Xavier last March.

“I’d kill them,” he said. “That’s how bad I am. That’s how vile I am.”

As if to show he is an equal-opportunity critic, Chaney chastised the red-state voters of Ohio following the presidential election in November.

“It’s not the people I hate,” he said. “It’s what they did that I hate.”

Chaney followed that up with a pointed political critique of President George Bush and the Iraq war during a banquet in January, which resulted in boos.

The response of the 73-year-old Chaney was to challenge one of the boo-birds to step outside with him, no doubt so he could grab the person by the throat or threaten to take a bat to the person’s body or just threaten to kill the person.

Now Chaney is up to three suspensions in the last week, two of them self-imposed after he ordered a seldom-used player to play the role of a hockey goon during a game with Saint Joseph’s.

The “goon,” Nehemiah Ingram, used up all five of his fouls in four minutes, one of which led to the broken arm of senior John Bryant, who, in an instant, was cheated out of the rest of his college career.

Chaney made no broken bones about the tactic going into the game, dressing it up as antidote to what he perceived to be Saint Joseph’s routine use of illegal screens.

Chaney defended his actions immediately following the game. He obviously did not plan on a broken arm or a national furor that is overwhelming his Father Flanagan-like image.

The rush to measure the Saint Joseph’s incident in relation to his basketball capital is a flaccid position.

A person could have a spotless driving record extending back 30 years, which would mean absolutely nothing if the person were nabbed going 100 mph in a residential area.

This is sort of in the family of the apprehended sexual predator, after which journalists descend on the perpetrator’s neighborhood, only to learn that the wacko was a quiet man who stayed to himself, bothered no one at all, kept up his property and once did the grocery shopping for the poor old lady down the street after she broke her hip on the ice.

All of the good deeds add up to a whole lot of nothing, as it should be.

All the good things in Chaney’s past hardly atone for his premeditated decision to rough up the Saint Joseph’s players, one of whom is now finished with his college career.

This is not to suggest that Chaney should be fired. It is to suggest that the issue of Chaney should have been addressed more forthrightly years ago.

We have seen this story all too often in college sports, the old story of absolute power corrupting absolutely, of coaches gone wild being as much an element of the culture as girls gone wild.

In many ways, Chaney is the face of Temple, an icon who is bigger than the institution, presiding over his tiny fiefdom, with few checks and balances.

Chaney should have been prescribed a chill pill 20 years ago.

Instead, he has been left to grovel, apologize a zillion times and wallow in his suspensions.

Chaney has done enough to save his job. He is not perfect. No one is.

He is merely the product of a peculiar system of enablers.


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