It took a hard-core fan to raise an essential question last week about Temple coach John Chaney, whom the school suspended for the rest of the regular season after he ordered a player to brutalize an opponent. Why, asked Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, have the chair-throwing and player-choking of a certain other Hall of Fame coach gone into the annals of demonology, while over two decades Chaney has gotten more or less a free pass despite choking one opposing coach, threatening the life of another and vowing after a loss that if he had a baseball bat, he'd use it on his players? Rendell proposed an answer to a Philadelphia radio station: Chaney "gets away with a lot of stuff because people like him. Had it been someone like Bobby Knight, who the media hates, I think they would have been calling for him to be banned forever from basketball."
Indeed, as an underdog who coaches underdogs, Chaney leads the personal life of a monk, devoting himself to young men who might otherwise be abandoned. He's funny, self-deprecating and available. After each tempestuous episode, once his eyes have retracted into his head, he's quicker than Knight to say he's sorry and accept punishment, which came belatedly last week when Temple took three days to act. On Monday, Chaney said he'll sit out the Atlantic 10 tournament, but the ban was self-imposed.
The difference between Chaney and Knight was always the difference between a street fighter and a bully. His superiors have long been blinded by that image, but last week the Temple coach forever jumped character. The day before facing rival St. Joseph's, Chaney complained that the Hawks set too many illegal screens, and he vowed to send in "one of my goons." Within four minutes of entering the Owls' 63--56 loss, 6'8", 250-pound reserve Nehemiah Ingram had spent five fouls, in the process fracturing the right arm of St. Joe's forward John Bryant. By issuing a bald threat and following through, Chaney reduced himself to a common thug. "Yeah, coach Chaney was wrong--so what?" editorialized the Philadelphia Daily News. Virtually every other corner of the media understands that the days of the double standard are over. Let's hope Chaney's bosses do too. -- Alexander Wolff