BCS History & Legends

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John Chaney: Legend in His Own Time

As a high school senior in 1951, Chaney was the Public League MVP in Philadelphia and he felt he was good enough to play anywhere in the country, but few scholarships were available to African Americans in those days. Only two schools in Philadelphia had black players on their teams at the time – LaSalle and Temple.
Like most black players during this time, his obvious option was to play at a historically black college and he had hoped to play for the legendary Clarence “Big House” Gaines at Winston-Salem State. But fate would have it that Bethune’s crafty head basketball coach Rudolph “Bunky” Matthews beat Gaines to his house a day before, and whisked him off to Daytona Beach.
And the Phila whiz legend began.
In 1952, Chaney scored a school-record 57 points (a record that stood for 13 years until Carl Fuller scored 60).
In 1953, when Chaney was a sophomore, the Wildcats won the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title and advanced to the NAIA District 29 final.
In his senior year, the 5-foot-10 guard led the Wildcats to a berth in the NAIA Tournament, (the first national athletic organization that permitted black schools to compete in its tournament). To get there, Bethune-Cookman had to play through a crowded District 29 which pitted seven other black schools in a winner-take-all bracket.
The Wildcats had racked up a 17-7 season but lost to eventual district champion Texas Southern in the first round, 115-92.
Chaney led all scorers with 23 points.
He scored more than 3,000 points in his college career.
After his college playing career was over, John dreamed of playing professional basketball but again, the opportunities were limited to the semi-pro leagues where many of his black college opponents were already filling the rosters of newly formed teams.
He played with the Sunbury Mercuries, Hazelton Hawks, and Williamsport Billies in the now-defunct Eastern Professional Basketball from 1956-64.
Chaney began his coaching career in 1963 at Sayre Junior High School and went 59–9 in three seasons.
In 1966, he took over a one-win team at Simon Gratz High School in his hometown and compiled a 63–23 record in six seasons.
His college coaching career began as a head coach at Cheyney State and where he had an amazing 232-56 record and won the 1978 Division II national championship.
He left to take the head coaching job at Temple University where he put together an impressive career with a 516–253 record. In all, he won a total of 741 games in 34 years and joins head coaches Bighouse Gaines, John B. McLendon, Jr., and his Cheney State women’s basketball counterpart C. Vivian Stringer as the only Black college coaches in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
(The betting consensus is… if given the chance, he might have also made the Hall as a player)