Just about everybody who is somebody in Philadelphia college hoops - as well as many former players and coaches - was at the Palestra yesterday.
The occasion was the Big Five Hall of Fame Induction 2010. At a celebratory luncheon, three of the biggest names to ever grace the city's basketball landscape became the newest members of the fraternity.
There was former Temple coach John Chaney taking a break from his life of leisure to greet well-wishers, and as he always described it, "telling lies." Rollie Massimino, the former Villanova coach, was in town on leave from his position as the head man at Northwood University in West Palm Beach, Fla. And the third member of the group was ex-La Salle coach Speedy Morris, who has returned to his high school roots as coach at St. Joseph's Prep.
"I used to slip in here, and the old man would cut the lights out and say we couldn't play with the lights on," Chaney said about his days growing up in Philadelphia. "We used to play one-on-one out there on the court in the dark."
Chaney, now 78, brought light to many lives during his 24 years at Temple.
A 2001 inductee into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Chaney had success with players who were often overlooked and sometimes undervalued by the bigger and more prominent programs. Under his direction, the Owls played with discipline and compiled a record of 516-253, with 17 NCAA tournament berths that included five appearances in the Elite Eights.
While a Final Four bid and a national championship eluded Chaney at Temple, his 52 Big Five victories are the most by any coach. Chaney, who retired in 2006, also is the Owls' career leader in wins.
"I didn't go to a Big Five school," said Chaney, who excelled on the court for Ben Franklin High before playing at Bethune-Cookman in Daytona Beach, Fla. "But I accepted and adapted a great deal of what it's all about. It's very special for me to be in good company [yesterday]. We're all guys who would fight like maniacs, and when that clock said it was over, that's really when everything began."
The 75-year-old Massimino, whose NAIA team at Northwood is 17-4 and ranked 14th in the nation, was scheduled to leave on a 3:30 flight yesterday afternoon so he could be in place for the Seahawks' game tonight against Florida Memorial.
"We've lost three games at the buzzer," he said, appearing incredulous.
Massimino remains the only Big Five coach to win a national championship. In what was one of the college basketball upsets of all time, the Wildcats reached the top by knocking off Georgetown in the 1985 NCAA national championship game.
But Massimino's body of work also speaks for itself.
He went 357-241 at 'Nova with 11 NCAA tournament berths, and five trips to the Elite Eight. He left the Wildcats for UNLV after the 1991-92 season.
Morris, the baby of the threesome at age 67, guided the La Salle men for 15 seasons ending in 2001. After coaching the Lady Explorers for two years, Morris took over the men and went 238-203 to accumulate the most victories by a coach in the program's history.