John Chaney once threatened to kill rival John Calipari, here's what the latter said after Temple coach’s death

An enduring legend of the combative coach was his rivalry with then UMass coach John Calipari and that rivalry reached a new intensity in February 1994


                            John Chaney once threatened to kill rival John Calipari, here's what the latter said after Temple coach’s death
In February 1994, John Chaney, left (Al Bello/Allsport/Getty Images), and John Calipari's (Getty Images) famous rivalry found new intensity when the former threatened the latter

John Chaney, the Hall of Fame coach who took Temple University to 17 N.C.A.A. basketball tournaments, largely recruiting high school players from poor neighborhoods, died on Friday, January 29, at the age of 89. It was reported that he died “after a short illness,” though details about where he died or the nature of the illness were not specified.

"John Chaney was a great coach, but he was so much more. For generations of Temple University students, he was a wise counselor, a dedicated teacher, an icon of success, and a passionate leader who always led by example and with conviction," Temple President Richard M. Englert said in a statement. "I am also honored to say he was a dear friend.”

Born January 21, 1932, in Jacksonville, Florida, Chaney had a remarkable career. He spent 24 seasons at Temple. He went to the Elite Eight on five occasions, and Temple was ranked No. 1 for a stretch during the 1987-88 season, when the Owls finished 32-2 and went 18-0 in Atlantic 10 play.

09 Nov 2001: Head coach John Chaney of Temple directs his team against Maryland during the consolation game in the Coaches vs. Cancer IKON Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Maryland won 82-74. (Ezra Shaw/ALLSPORT/Getty Images)

But an enduring legend of the combative coach was his rivalry with then UMass coach John Calipari. And that rivalry reached a new intensity in February 1994 when Chaney publicly threatened to kill Calipari. The New York Times reported that Chaney was upset that Calipari, after a 56-55 Massachusetts victory, was critical of the officials Gerry Donhehy, Joe Mingle, and Larry Lembo as the three left the floor. Calipari reportedly told the officials they would never officiate a game there again.

During a post-game press conference, when Calipari was speaking, Chaney said from the rear of the room: "Could I say this to you, please? You've got a good ball club. But what you did with the officials out there is wrong, and I don't want to be a party to that. You understand?"

When Calipari said, "You weren't out there, Coach. You don't have any idea," Chaney replied that he did. "You got a game given to you by officials right here with [George Washington University] on three bad calls, O.K.?" Chaney said. "Then you send your kids out there pushing and shoving. You had the best officiating you could ever get here. And for you to ride them, I don't want to be a party to that." 

John Calipari the head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats gives instructions to the team against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Rupp Arena on January 29, 2020, in Lexington, Kentucky. (Getty Images)

As things got more and more heated, Chaney charged the podium where Calipari stood. Three UMass players moved to intervene, and Chaney was restrained before reaching Calipari. “I’ll kill you,” Chaney shouted. “You remember that.”

In the aftermath of Chaney’s death, Calipari, now the head coach of the University of Kentucky men's team, issued a statement. “I’m so saddened to hear that we have lost John Chaney, a coaching icon, a Hall of Famer, a molder of young men, the ultimate competitor, and a dear friend,” Calipari wrote. “Being able to compete against the best at a young age gave me a great opportunity to grown and learn."

“Coach Chaney’s ability to coach hard, yet build trust and teach life lessons, is unmatched in our profession, in my opinion. Although we were competitors, it’s what I admired most about him,” he said. “Coach Chaney and I fought every game we competed -- as everyone knows, sometimes literally -- but in the end, he was my friend. Throughout my career, we would talk about basketball and life. I will miss those talks and I will my friend. Rest in peace, Coach!"

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