Though most of Thursday’s papers will include the story of Temple coach John Chaney suspending himself for sanctionary goonery (by his own admission) during Tuesday’s loss to Saint Joseph’s, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Rich Hoffman had the highlights a day earlier.
It began with Chaney, less than 5 minutes into the second half, being restrained by players and assistant coaches as he argued with the officials about what he felt were illegal screens that weren’t being called on the Hawks. It continued with Chaney sending in 6-8, 250-pound senior forward Nehemiah Ingram to throw elbows and ask questions later.
Ingram hit everything that moved and fouled out in 4 minutes (including a technical foul). Chaney saw it as rough justice, but it wasn’t. Instead, whether he knew it or not, he was mocking the game that has been his life.
“I’m sending a message,” Chaney said. “And I’m going to send in what we used to do years ago – send in the goons. That’s what I’m going to do. That’s what you used to do…
“I’ve got me two of them on my bench and I’m going to use them. We try to play the game right. But when you’ve got two screens set up, and they’re moving, there’s only one person who used to set up screens like that, and that was Bob Knight, and he got away with it. The Celtics used to do it, they got away with it.
“I’m from the old school,” he said. “I tried to play it right, but no more. No more.”
Ingram’s last foul, a shove as the Hawks’ John Bryant was making a basket underneath, left Bryant sprawled out among the cheerleaders for a couple of minutes. After the game, St. Joe’s coach Phil Martelli said Bryant was fine, but he looked hurt at the time, and later on the bench.
To which, Chaney replied, “That’s what happens. That’s what happens. I’m a mean, ornery, son of a bitch. You understand? When I see something wrong, I try to right it. I try to do the same thing they’re doing.
“You ask me what’s happening in the game? Illegal screens should never happen in the game.”
As he entered the interview room, Chaney was bellowing at Linda Bruno, the Atlantic 10 commissioner, about the officials. He asked her for Big Ten officials the next time, or ACC officials. He asked her loudly. Little did he know that two of last night’s officials, Jim Burr and Mike Sanzere, also work in the Big Ten, and that the other official, Karl Hess, also works in the ACC. Oh, well.
It still made for some great theater, as Chaney moments often do. Then Bruno and everyone else listened to see if Chaney would admit the obvious – that he sent Ingram into the game as a guided missile and nothing more.
Admit it? There was never a question, seeing as how Chaney essentially promised to do the self-same thing on a Monday conference call with Atlantic 10 reporters. This was not some heat-of-the-moment overreaction to another tough game – oh, and by the way, the Hawks again beat the Owls last night, 63-56. This was a planned response if the officiating went the way Chaney suspected it would.
Asked if he was concerned about the game when he sent in a kid for the simple purpose of gooning it up, Chaney bristled.
“I’m worried about what happens when officials apply a different measurement for one team as opposed to another,” he said. “You can protect shooters in a legal way, not illegal. I respect a team that plays as a team, but a moving screen is a moving screen…
“I’m also going to send a message to everybody in our league that when we come to play, we’re going to set them, too. I’m not going to have my guys getting hurt. The last time, the guy hit Mardy [Collins, Temple’s leading scorer] with a hip at the Palestra. No! The guy’s standing there, looking at it! No, I don’t play that game.”
You couldn’t help but be reminded of some long-forgotten outrages in Chaney’s career, when his quest for justice got in the way of his common sense. People who talk about the old man getting old really don’t get it, because Chaney has been doing this stuff forever. If you closed your eyes last night, you could have been in Morgantown in the mid-1980s, with Chaney calling an official a “bleeping Jesse James.” This really is back to the future, even if Nehemiah Ingram wasn’t born when Chaney started pulling this stuff.
Injustice always has been his target, and outrage always has been his fuel – and the man does stand for great things. But there always has been this fear shared by the people who really like Chaney, that one of these moments would serve to trivialize a great and successful career.
Moments. Last night, Chaney was as wrong as he was unapologetic. Asked about the crudeness of Ingram’s elbow-throwing, the man who sent him out there to play the goon said, “Yeah. We’re just going to have to teach him how to do it a little bit better.”
Older Chaney watchers will remember the coach threatening to kill UMass’ John Calipari during a post-game press conference turned sour. Though in Chaney’s defense, if wanting to kill Calipari was a crime, there would be at least a dozen Nets fans in jail.