By Steve Czaban Special to Published Mar 09, 2005 at 5:09 AM

{image1} When Temple's John Chaney blew his basketball gasket and "sent in the goon" (his words) to wreak havoc against 'cross-town Philly rival St. Joe's a few weeks ago, perhaps the biggest surprise was that something like this didn't happen sooner.

The warning signs were all there with the increasingly cantankerous local legend. He had baited the crowd at a team dinner over politics when he started railing on how much he hated the state of Ohio for re-electing George W. Bush to a second term. One red-stater rose to the bait, and a shouting match ensued. The 70-something-year-old coach then challenged the fan to a fight outside in the parking lot.

Yes, a fight.

It was a telling prelude to what later happened on the court. In the process of getting beat for the sixth consecutive time by the well-coached Hawks under Phil Martelli, something in Chaney's head said: "Well, we might not be able to beat you. But we can always fight!"

If you can't win an election, pick a fight. If you can't beat a rival, pick a fight. Notice a trend here? And in the post-action excuses for each incident, Chaney fell back upon the moral high ground of "fighting against injustice."

Bush got us into a reckless war in Iraq, and Martelli's club sets illegal screens. Chaney is certain of these two things. Certain. So certain, in fact, that he'll fail to even see the three million more Americans who voted for Bush than Kerry, or the otherwise impartial referees determining who is fouling whom on the basketball court.

"They are wrong; I am right."

Sadly, this kind of thinking tends to happen when you get to his station in life. Chaney has what can best be described as a severe case of O.M.S.

"Old Man Syndrome."

Normally, OMS is a relatively benign affliction. It manifests itself when say, your grandfather starts ranting about why the government still subsidizes Amtrak and PBS. OMS will cause you to start flagrantly disobeying the "15 Items or Less" sign at the supermarket.

Old men do this because they've been around the block long enough to know that there's no holding cell in the back of the Safeway for violators of this "rule." In fact, who has ever seen a checkout clerk even make a customer scoop up his groceries off the belt and back out of the line because of it?

So the idea of "consequence free" rule breaking (or bending) becomes a rather appealing (if not somewhat intoxicating) way of life for geezers with OMS. Half the time, old men get away with stuff just because they are old, and we feel pity for them.

An old guy cuts in front of you at the gas pump. What are you gonna do? Kick his ass? Most of us are just glad he didn't sideswipe our door while trying to see over the dashboard. So we let it go.

The problem comes when ordinary OMS takes hold in a legendary coach who is already coddled and accommodated and excused for all sort of transgressions large and small. One of the reasons Chaney was both brazen and (initially) unapologetic about his hardwood marauder tactic is the fact that nobody had ever stood up to him before. So why would they now?

Remember the Calipari meltdown? Chaney got a one-game suspension for it.


That didn't exactly send a message that he had severely crossed the line of sportsmanship and decency as a university leader. It sent the message: "Yeah, you were wrong, but that smarmy Calipari really is a jerk. Attaboy, coach!"

Luckily for Chaney, his resume is long enough, and supporters powerful enough, that he'll likely survive this one. At least so he can coach one more year and ride off into the sunset on more of his own terms.

But sports history is replete with larger-than-life figures that fell victim to their own rampant variants of OMS. Some were fired, others just mortally embarrassed.

Who knows if Woody Hayes thought he could actually get away with slugging Charlie Bauman in the Gator Bowl and still be coach of the Buckeyes. Perhaps it was truly in the heat of the moment. Ultimately, it was symptomatic of old school coaches who just can't stand losing anymore.

Losing reminds them they just aren't as great as everyone says they are. This truth flies contrary to the boosters who say how the program can't live another day without you. Or the media guides that devote 12 pages to your coaching "legacy."

Put simply: losing still hurts.

And unlike a young lion who knows he'll be back to fight (and win) another day, the old lion just gets more and more bitter. The same Chaney-esque story arc has already played out with Bob Knight at Indiana.

Knight suffered from an early onset of OMS, combined with an excessively bullying persona. Did anybody stand up to Knight back when he was running the table? Of course not. Rules? Surely they don't apply to a guy who is canonized by a screaming idiot on television who has dubbed you "The General." Please. Rules are for the rank and file. Not "The General."

It ended badly for him at IU. And it almost ended badly at Texas Tech last year, too.

Over a salad. That's right. A salad.

Imagine telling your kids someday about two of the greatest coaches in college basketball history, Robert Montgomery Knight and John Chaney. Somewhere in that story, you might have had to explain what ultimately did them in.

A salad, and moving screens.

Would that have sounded crazy, or what? But crazy is what we're talking about when it comes to the coaching variant of OMS.

There's a good man and a great coach not too far from Chaney and Temple.

His name is Joe Paterno. He thinks the referees are out to get him -- among other things. He is old. He is getting cranky.

Please, somebody help him find a gracious way to exit at Penn State, before unfortunate events dictate those circumstances.

Steve Czaban Special to

Steve is a native Washingtonian and has worked in sports talk radio for the last 11 years. He worked at WTEM in 1993 anchoring Team Tickers before he took a full time job with national radio network One-on-One Sports.

A graduate of UC Santa Barbara, Steve has worked for WFNZ in Charlotte where his afternoon show was named "Best Radio Show." Steve continues to serve as a sports personality for WLZR in Milwaukee and does fill-in hosting for Fox Sports Radio.