PHILADELPHIA >> Mike Vreeswyk had a challenge faced by orators and shot clock basketball offenses — time constraints.
Vreeswyk had to fit memories of more than 40 years of instruction, love and devotion offered by deceased Temple University Coach John Chaney into a ten-minute window.
Vreeswyk, a three-year starter, who graduated with a business law degree from Temple‘s Fox School of Business in 1989, starred as a junior on arguably the best team in Owls history. That 1987-88 squad went 32-2, plus, earned a top-seed in the NCAA Tournament before Duke ended the Owls memorable run into the Elite Eight.
Vreeswyk, a dynamic shooting guard who set unbreakable scoring records during his time at Morrisville High School and added more achievements at Temple, received high honor when family members asked him to speak at Chaney’s going-home service.
Funeral services for Temple’s Hall of Fame basketball coach John Chaney, 89, were held Monday, Feb. 8, at the Liacouras Center. COVID-19 restrictions forced an invitation-only service inside Temple’s arena for which only 250 people were allowed in by city guidelines.
Vreeswyk, a master storyteller with reminiscences that could rival Scheherazade, embraced his Liacouras Center calling.
Vreeswyk, during a 20-minute phone conversation last week, identified “Coach” as an amazing man and mentor.
“We loved him and therefore tried to make him proud. We all knew that “Coach” loved us genuinely and unconditionally, and he never gave up on anybody,” Vreeswyk said, his voice impacted by the Earth departure of Chaney on January 29, a week after his 89th birthday.
Successful coaches, teachers and parents share a responsibility of guidance. Vreeswyk memorialized Chaney as a life coach, always watching, forever teaching and dedicated to the preparation of young men and others for the road ahead.
Of course, Vreeswyk, who penned a year of Monday revelations in 2012 entitled “Monday Random Basketball Memory” posted to Facebook, told an interesting story about Chaney.
Temple had played a game against UCLA then left for a cross country jaunt to Boston for a game against Owls nemesis UMass. The Temple team had a layover in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.
Temple players Howard Evans and Tim Perry wandered off to an arcade. They were not around for boarding. Chaney, a devout “never pass up a teaching moment, you may never get it back” doctrine, eyed opportunity.
Vreeswyk said Chaney started herding passengers and players through the boarding gate, implored flight attendants to close the door and instructed pilots to back the plane out and to take off.
“He wanted to leave (Perry and Evans) in Chicago — and we did,” Vreeswyk recalled. Evans and Perry took the next flight out then had to face Chaney.
“Coach knew the psychological effect of being left behind; not knowing the punishment and having to think about it for four or five hours would be gut wrenching.”
The entire Owls team learned by this ginormous mistake made by their teammates. Vreeswyk’s father, Ed, loved Chaney’s demand for team unity and individual accountability.
“The one item that impressed me most about John Chaney was his belief in preparing the players for life ahead....getting a college degree,” Ed Vreeswyk said.
“He would check continuously with the players and teachers about how they were doing in class. Chaney always "preached" to his players the value of education in their lives ahead, coping with life's ups and downs, not just basketball. He was just as much a life teacher as a basketball coach.”
Mike Vreeswyk said Chaney changed a lot of lives and that Chaney, plus, lessons he taught and love that he offered continues to impact.
“If Coach changed our lives, my life, then that means he changed my kids’ lives,” said the father of two, daughter Julia, enrolled at West Chester University and starring on the Rams women’s volleyball team; and son, Jack, learning about life and playing basketball at The College of New Jersey.
Vreeswyk observed that Chaney’s “downstream impact will be never ending.”
“(Coach Chaney) taught through life lessons and we were lucky to be his students. He was relentless in helping those in need. And the world is better for it.”