Eddie Jones flew in from Weston, Fla. Lamont Ferrell and Jerome Dowdell came up from Atlanta. Players from all over the country wouldn’t dare miss the chance to honor Hall of Fame coach John Chaney for making a difference in their lives.
There were more than 25 former Temple basketball players who paid a special tribute to Chaney on Saturday afternoon at the Philadelphia Platinum Grill in Chestnut Hill on Crittenden Street.
The special banquet was organized by Ferrell and Darrin Pearsall, who put together the program where Temple players told stories of their playing days for Chaney. They also did some light roasting and toasting. The players talked about the road trips, the 6 a.m. practices and other memorable moments they shared with their legendary coach.
More than anything it was a chance for several of the players to thank Chaney, who not only coached these players, but helped to shape and mold their lives for the better.
The testimonials were very moving. Aaron McKie and Eddie Jones were two of the players who spoke at the event. McKie and Jones had stellar college and NBA careers. McKie grew up in North Philadelphia and played his scholastic basketball for Simon Gratz. Jones hailed from Blanche Ely High School in Pompano Beach, Fla. McKie and Jones played on three NCAA tournament teams including one of Chaney’s five Final Eight teams. Both are Temple graduates. Both spoke glowingly of their coach.
“Coach came to get a little kid out of North Philadelphia who really didn’t have much going for him,” said McKie, now an assistant coach with the Philadelphia 76ers. “You injected life into [me] coach. I appreciate everything. When I go different places people recognize me. They know I’m from Philadelphia and Temple University. The first thing they asked me is how is it playing for Coach Chaney? How were the 5 o’clock (morning) practices? You know, I get a joy and a pleasure to talk about coach because he’s well respected. Not only is he a Hall of Famer. He’s a Hall of Fame coach and an even better person.”
Jones had some great words for the longtime mentor who taught him a number of lifelong lessons on North Broad Street.
“Coach, what you have done for everyone in here, we can’t put a price on it,” Jones said. “Without you I would have been one of the same little guys in the neighborhood talking about what could have been and what should have been. You brought us around and showed us life. You taught me how to be a father. You taught me how to be a husband.”
In addition to McKie and Jones, there were several other former Temple players who spoke such as Chris Laws, Dwight Forrester, Nate Blackwell, Mike Vreeswyk, Derrick Brantley, Jason Ivy, Tim Perry and Jerome Dowdell. Ferrell was the master of ceremonies.
Also in attendance were a couple of Chaney’s basketball standouts from his Cheyney State teams. Keith Johnson, Coppin State assistant basketball coach, played on the Wolves’ 1978 NCAA Division II championship team. Michael Blackshear played on one of Chaney’s Final Four teams at Cheyney State.
Chaney led Temple to a 516-253 record and 17 NCAA tournament appearances from 1982-2006. Prior to that, Chaney’s record was 232-56 at Cheyney State, including one national title. His legacy includes some great years as a coach, but he also provided his players with a chance to receive a good education and make better lives for themselves and families beyond basketball.
“It’s great to see these guys interacting with each other in a brotherly way,” Chaney said. “To hear that their son or daughter is going to Temple it just explains so much about what was said to me about one of our great teachers, Marcus Foster. He said, ‘You can take one poor kid out of a poor and humble living and you can take that youngster and send him through high school and college. He can change the dynamics of his entire family. That’s what you heard today.”
NOTE: Other Temple players in attendance included: Mark Macon, Levan Alston, Duane Causwell, Kevin Clifton, Lynard Stewart, Mik Kilgore and Howie Evans.