2001 NCAA Men's Tourney

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Dream deferred

Once again, Chaney falls short of Final Four

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Posted: Sunday March 25, 2001 6:43 PM

  John Chaney Temple coach John Chaney talks with the media after losing to the defending champs, Michigan State. AP

ATLANTA (AP) -- John Chaney reached out his gnarled, tearstained hand, pulled Quincy Wadley toward him and gave him a tender kiss on the head.

Denied a trip to the Final Four again, the Temple coach was heartbroken as he listened to his players talk about the pain of coming up short for a coach who was more like a father to them.

"We wanted it as badly for him as he wanted it for us," Wadley said, after Temple lost 69-62 to Michigan State in the South Regional final Sunday. "It's a tragedy we couldn't do it."

By now, everybody knows the numbers: Chaney, 69, fell to 0-5 in regional finals and lost at this achingly familiar point for the second time in three years. With 17 trips to the tournament in 19 seasons, he might be the best coach never to step onto college basketball's grandest stage.

Three months ago, the 11th-seeded Owls (24-13) were saddled with a seven-game losing streak, a dwindling bench and a severe case of declining morale. This hardly seemed like the team that would take the rumpled mastermind of North Philly so close to the one goal he has never realized.

The unexpected success of the season helped Chaney put the demoralizing day in perspective.

"They'll get over this and so will I," he said. "I've been through it so many times. I'll get over it."

The game was a typical Chaney masterpiece, but like any tragedy, there was one fatal flaw: Temple didn't account for Michigan State's David Thomas, a 5-point-per-game scorer, who went 8-for-10 for a career-high 19 points, including a key 3-pointer with a minute left that basically sealed the game.

"You have to look at statistics with everyone, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't," Chaney said. "There's always one guy. You always deal with the known and leave the unknown alone. I've done that all my life. That's why we've won 70 percent of our games. I live and die by that."

So, Temple went home despite committing only four turnovers, and finishing the tournament with a total of just 25, an almost unheard-of statistic that speaks of Chaney-style patience and discipline.

Against Michigan State, the Owls mixed and matched defenses -- the matchup zone didn't work, but the 2-3 and 1-2-2 trap sure did -- kept the pace to their liking and, although they got outrebounded, center Kevin Lyde (21 points) did enough damage to keep the game close.

But Thomas was a killer. Temple's second-leading scorer, Quincy Wadley, made just two shots on a frustrating four-point night. Balls that bounced Temple's way earlier in the tournament didn't this time. With four minutes left and a six-point deficit, David Hawkins shot a 3-pointer that went halfway down the hoop, but bounced out.

"Maybe that would have tightened them up a little," Wadley said. "The ball just bounced in their favor today."

In the end, this tiny band of seven players from the rough-and-tumble streets of Philadelphia didn't have enough firepower to overcome a Big 10 team with depth, size, strength and a national title to defend.

"If we weren't playing them, I'd pull for them to get the national championship," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "John Chaney embodies everything I believe in. He runs a clean program. He's just a good coach."

Temple players couldn't agree more. That's why nobody really seemed ashamed to cry.

"Coach is getting up in age, and every chance it seems like we're right there, we just can't get over that hurdle," Wadley said "It's a shame, because of how hard we've worked and how hard he's worked. He deserves it."

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