This article was originally published in the Daily News on May 9, 2001.
Someday, if one of his former players were to be named the NBA's Most Valuable Player,
Defensive Player of the Year or Rookie of the Year, Temple coach John Chaney might be just as proud.
But you can bet that as long as Temple wears cherry and white, Chaney never will be prouder than he was yesterday when 76ers guard Aaron McKie, a former Owl, won the NBA's Sixth Man Award.
For Chaney, the Sixth Man Award is the perfect expression of his philosophy of how basketball should be played.
"That award is the ultimate. There isn't anything any better," Chaney said during a visit to the Sixers' practice facility to see McKie receive his award.
"It's certainly an award where you have to have people who know and people who observe good basketball. There are a lot of guys who score a lot more baskets, but when you look at all of the other things that Aaron represents, he is the prototypical coach's son. He's the guy who observes the stop signs and the go signs. "
In 1983, Sixers legend Bobby Jones was the first recipient of the Sixth Man Award. McKie is the first Sixer to be honored since.
In 76 games, McKie averaged career highs in minutes (31.5), points (11.6), assists (5), rebounds (4.1) and steals (1.39). He received 57 of a possible 124 votes from a panel of sports writers and broadcasters to beat out Milwaukee's Tim Thomas and Minnesota's LaPhonso Ellis.
"This definitely helps validate my career," said McKie, who was born in North Philadelphia and graduated from
Simon Gratz High. "Sometimes when you play basketball or do any profession, things don't go your way.
"My teammates and coaches all played a big part in this. I guess you have to be in the right situation. Timing can be everything, and having a coach and teammates who believe in you and know that your job is very important made this possible. You don't have to start all the time. It's about how you finish. "
Whether it was coming off the bench, starting for an injured Eric Snow at point guard or an injured Allen Iverson at shooting guard, or giving the Sixers a three-guard attack, McKie was more versatile and steadier than any other Sixer.
He actually made 33 starts, but that only emphasized his value as the league's top reserve.
"The way I feel about this award is that it speaks about my impact on the whole game," McKie said. "I'm a guy who needs to focus the night before a game. I've always been taught that.
"I think I'm a good listener, and whatever a coach asks me to do, I'll try to do it the best I can. I'm very observant. And when I'm on the bench, I try to see what's going on out there so when I come in, I can make a difference or try to change a game in favor of my team.
"You have to know yourself and your capabilities as a basketball player. I think all that rolled into one helped me to be able to get this award. "
Basketball is a team sport, and the sixth man is the ultimate team player. It's a difficult role, and it takes a unique individual to capably fill it.
"For anybody who likes coaching and wants people to understand that if you do it the right way there are some rewards, this is a great testament to that," Sixers coach Larry Brown said of McKie's award. "Here's a guy who's so professional. He never brings attention to himself. He never gets caught up in the awards that other people get.
"For Aaron to be honored like this has to make everybody feel pretty good. I don't look at him as a sub. It's important for me to have people like him around because he's such a credit to the game. So many times guys like him get overlooked and taken for granted. But you see every night what he means to our team. "
McKie came to Temple as a midlevel prospect and turned himself into an NBA first-round draft pick.
After moderate success in Portland and Detroit, he came to the Sixers as part of the Jerry Stackhouse trade in 1997 and then carved out an irreplaceable niche as the Sixers' do-everything-man off the bench.
His knowledge of the game and dogged commitment to do whatever it takes to win have earned him leaguewide respect.
"Aaron winning this award tells me that maybe some things are real and are supposed to happen," said Iverson, who should be named the league's MVP shortly. "This is special. They gave this award to the guy who really deserved it. He was so good at what he was doing in his job that he couldn't be overlooked. "
There are bigger awards, maybe more prestigious ones. But there's no award that sums up the value of players like Aaron McKie better than the Sixth Man Award.
"I've never been a guy who has been concerned about my individual numbers," McKie said. "The important thing to me is winning. You do whatever you're asked to help your team win. I've always believed that when you have winning ingredients and a winning team, everybody is rewarded."