Former players to honor Chaney

John Chaney will get in the last word. file PHOTO
John Chaney will get in the last word. file PHOTO
Posted: August 03, 2012

JOHN CHANEY has always maintained a unique bond with the majority of his players, even long after they played their last basketball games for Temple. This Saturday, they're doing something they've wanted to make happen for a long time, to show their appreciation for what he's meant to them.

Some 50 former players, many of whom are flying in from all over, as well as other people in the Temple family who remain close with the Hall of Fame coach, will gather at the Platinum Grille, not far from Chaney's Mount Airy home, to relive their times together. There's even a chance Bill Cosby might show up.

Chester's Darrin Pearsall, who was a member of the great 1987-88 team, is doing most of the organizing on behalf of a core group of ex-Owls who call themselves "Team Together."

"We've just never had a chance to do something like this before," Pearsall said. "A few have suggested it. We're not getting any younger, and neither is he. So let's just have some personal time with Coach, grill him a little bit, just have fun. I think there'll be plenty of stories flowing through the night. It's supposed to go from 3 to 7, but the place is staying open as long as we need to."

And it's understood who will get the last word.

"Most definitely," Pearsall acknowleged. "He can have the first and last. Once we give him the mic … It'll be heartfelt. You know him. I told him, ‘Coach, we'd like to spend some time with you.' He said sure. Then he went into his control mode. When I called to firm everything up, he tried to back out. I told him he couldn't, we had too many people already committed. So he'll end up being the last one who'll want to leave."

Some things never change. These guys saw a side of Chaney that most obviously don't. It made a difference. Then and forever.

"He was very tough," Pearsall said, no doubt echoing the sentiments of many. "I had him in his prime, when he was able to run up and down the court and challenge us to fistfights. It might be difficult to understand, but he put a level of structure into your life that tends to carry with you. From moment to moment, year to year. That's the way it is with all of us. He did that through basketball. But it went way beyond that. He made you angry, but now you're able to look back and laugh.

“The one common denominator is, we all took positives out of [the experience]. You had to adapt to him. But if you were able to accept what he set forth, you were OK. Many of us did not have fathers in the household. He became that individual. You bought into that.

“I was one of those guys who he'd never pronounce my name correctly. I was everything except for ‘Darrin' or ‘Pearsall.' But the last time we talked on the phone, every time he said my name he got it right. He must have said he loved me five times. That's something I never got from him before, even though I knew it was there. That's what this is about. It's going to be emotional, with those that he's affected and that affected him."

Could it really be any other way?   

Contact Mike Kern at kernm@phillynews.com

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