High school basketball teams honor legendary Temple coach John Chaney

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Several high school basketball teams across Philadelphia honored legendary Temple University basketball coach John Chaney by waking up early Monday morning for practice.

Chaney was known to hold early morning practices, and it seemed only fitting that Sankofa Freedom Academy Charter School in Kensington did just that.

"Everybody in the City of Philadelphia knows John Chaney for discipline," said Councilmember Isaiah Thomas, who is also the head coach of the Sankofa Warriors. "That's what the theme was as it related to those 5:30 practices."

Chaney died Jan. 29, just eight days after his 89th birthday, after a short, unspecified illness.

He led Temple to 17 NCAA Tournament appearances over 24 seasons, including five NCAA regional finals. Chaney had 741 wins as a college coach.

He was twice named national coach of the year and his teams at Temple won six Atlantic 10 conference titles. He led Cheyney, in suburban Philadelphia, to the 1978 Division II national championship.

Councilmember Thomas says Monday wasn't just about the late coach's memorial, which was held at Temple's Liacouras Center, but a chance to discuss the local legend's impact beyond the court.

WATCH: Former players, friends remember Temple's Hall of Fame coach John Chaney
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Former players and friends remember Temple's Hall of Fame coach John Chaney during a memorial service on Monday.

"He was a legend," said Symir Priester, who is a senior, but was 3-years-old when Chaney retired from Temple. He never met Chaney, but he still feels his impact.

"My coaches, they're teaching me the stuff that he taught, which was years ago," said Priester.

Assistant Coach Ameen Akbar learned from Chaney while playing at his summer camp and from his father who played for the Hall of Famer at Simon Gratz High School Mastery Charter.

"So what we like to tell the players is the words you're getting from Isaiah and myself, they are our words, but oftentimes they come from someone directly through John Chaney," said Akbar.

Chaney was born on Jan. 21, 1932, in Jacksonville, Florida. He lived in a neighborhood there called Black Bottom where, he said, flooding rains would bring in rats. When he was in the ninth grade, his family moved to Philadelphia, where his stepfather got a job at a shipyard.

Though known as a Hall of Fame coach, he also was one of the best players ever to come out of Philadelphia. He was the Philadelphia Public League player of the year in 1951 at Benjamin Franklin High School.

A graduate of Bethune-Cookman College, he was an NAIA All-American and an NAIA tournament MVP before going pro in 1955 to play with the Harlem Globetrotters. With black players still being discriminated against in the NBA, he spent 1955 to 1966 in the Eastern Pro League with Sunbury and Williamsport, where he was a two-time league MVP.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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