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Don Chaney

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Don Chaney
Don Chaney, in the "Game of the Century", in 1968
Personal information
Born (1946-03-22) March 22, 1946 (age 78)
Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S.
Listed height6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)
Listed weight210 lb (95 kg)
Career information
High schoolMcKinley
(Baton Rouge, Louisiana)
CollegeHouston (1964–1968)
NBA draft1968: 1st round, 12th overall pick
Selected by the Boston Celtics
Playing career1968–1980
PositionShooting guard
Number12, 42
Coaching career1980–2004
Career history
As player:
19681975Boston Celtics
1975–1976Spirits of St. Louis
19761977Los Angeles Lakers
19771980Boston Celtics
As coach:
19801983Detroit Pistons (assistant)
19831985San Diego / Los Angeles Clippers (assistant)
19841987Los Angeles Clippers
1987-1988Atlanta Hawks
19881992Houston Rockets
19921993Detroit Pistons (assistant)
19931995Detroit Pistons
19952002New York Knicks (assistant)
20012004New York Knicks
Career highlights and awards
As player:

As coach:

Career ABA & NBA playing statistics
Points6,663 (8.4 ppg)
Rebounds3,147 (4.0 rpg)
Assists1,762 (2.2 apg)
Stats Edit this at Wikidata at NBA.com
Stats Edit this at Wikidata at Basketball-Reference.com
Career coaching record
NBA337–494 (.406)

Donald Ray Chaney (born March 22, 1946) is an American former professional basketball player and coach, most notable for winning two championships as a player on the Boston Celtics, and winning NBA Coach of The Year while leading the Houston Rockets.

Early life[edit]

Donald Ray Chaney was born on March 22, 1946, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He attended Mckinley High School where he excelled in basketball.

College career[edit]

While at Houston, #24 Chaney blocks a shot against UCLA in the 1968 Game of the Century at the Astrodome

Chaney played basketball in college for the University of Houston, where he was a teammate of future Basketball Hall-of-Famer Elvin Hayes. Chaney played all 40 minutes of the famed "Game of the Century" at the Astrodome.

Professional career[edit]

Boston Celtics (1968–1975)[edit]

In that year's 1968 NBA draft, Chaney became the first-round pick (12th overall) of the Boston Celtics; he was also drafted by the Houston Mavericks of the American Basketball Association.

Chaney became a champion with the Boston Celtics during his rookie year, in 1969. On February 28, 1973, Chaney set a career high in points score with 32, in a win over the Golden State Warriors.[1] He would also help the Celtics toward winning the 1974 NBA Finals.

Spirits of St. Louis (1975–1976)[edit]

Chaney played in the ABA for one year with the Spirits of St. Louis from 1975–1976.

Los Angeles Lakers (1976–1977)[edit]

Chaney had a short two season stint with the Los Angeles Lakers from 1976–1977. Chaney was widely known for his defensive skills, appearing on NBA all-defensive teams five times during his career. He was also known for providing notable numbers in minutes off the bench.

Return to the Boston Celtics (1977–1980)[edit]

Chaney returned to the Boston Celtics in 1977. Chaney is the only Boston Celtic who played with both Bill Russell (19561969) and Larry Bird (19791992).

Coaching career[edit]

After his playing career ended, Chaney became an assistant coach for the Detroit Pistons in 1980.

Los Angeles Clippers (1984–1987)[edit]

On March 13, 1985, Chaney was hired by the Los Angeles Clippers, replacing Jim Lynam with 21 games left in the 1984-85 season. It was noted at the time that he was just the twelfth African American head coach in the NBA (of the twelve, ten were former players, and five had played for the Celtics).[2] Chaney went 9-12 to lead the team to an ultimate finish of 31-51 and a tie for fourth place in the Pacific Division, which actually was their best finish since 1978. The 1985 season would be the first with Chaney as head coach for a full season, which saw them draft Benoit Benjamin as the third pick that year. Chaney believed that Benjamin could eventually become a "better offensive player than Ewing".[3] The team, composed of veteran players and fresh rookies, went 32-50. In a Western Conference with eight playoff spots for twelve teams, the Clippers finished three games short of a playoff spot. In 1986, Chaney nearly came to blows with Benjamin. During a pregame shoot-around, Benjamin showed up late and then sat on the side of the court rather than participate in practice. Chaney called Benjamin and stated that if he was one of his teammates and say he would kick him in the behind before deciding that he probably should kick him right now, although the crowd around Chaney helped calm him down.[4]

His second full season was a disaster. Wracked with injuries, the Clippers had a 12-game losing streak in the first eighteen games of the season and did not reach ten wins until the 54th game of the season. They closed the season out on a 14-game losing streak to finish 12-70, which at the time made them the holder of the second-worst record for a season in NBA history.[5] On April 22, 1987, he was fired to be replaced by Gene Shue.[6][7]

Houston Rockets (1988–1992)[edit]

On June 13, 1988, Chaney was hired by the Houston Rockets as head coach to replace Bill Fitch, who had been fired one week ago.[8] The Rockets had made the postseason the past four seasons but hadn't made it past the second round since 1987. In his first season, the Rockets went 45-37 and finished 5th in the Western Conference. They met the Seattle Supersonics in the First Round but lost in four games. The next year saw them finish 41-41 and finish as the eight seed in the West and a four-game loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round. The third season under Chaney was a tough battle. The Rockets played at .500 ball for the first half of the season but found themselves in a bind when Hakeem Olajuwon suffered an bone fracture in his right eye in January 1991 that saw him miss 25 games. By the All-Star Game break, the Rockets were 27-21. However, a tremendous March carried them mightily, as they lost only once in 15 games that month before they finished with 52 wins, the first time they had won 50 games since 1986. They finished 5th in the conference and met the Lakers in the First Round. The three games were decided by point margins of two, eleven, and four, but the Lakers won each of the games to sweep the Rockets. For his efforts, Chaney was awarded the NBA Coach of the Year Award, the second Rocket to win the award.[9]

The next season was tumultuous. They had a hot start to get the year going, winning nine of their first twelve games, but it was followed by five straight losses. At the All-Star Break, they were 25-22.[10] On February 12, 1992, Chaney was fired with the team at 26-26. The firing came one day after a loss by the Rockets to the Minnesota Timberwolves (who had nine wins prior to the game) in overtime, in which the Rockets had led by 24 points in the third quarter and days earlier lost a game where they had led by ten points. Chaney was 164-134 as coach of the Rockets, with a .561 winning percentage that was the best in team history to that point.[11] Owner Charlie Thomas did not put blame on Chaney, stating, "You can`t fire the team and something had to be done. Once you see that things are deteriorating, you have to do something." Assistant head coach Rudy Tomjanovich was named interim head coach.

Detroit Pistons (1993–1995)[edit]

On May 4, 1993, Chaney was hired to coach the Detroit Pistons.[12] The Pistons had just experienced a season of turmoil under Ron Rothstein, who led the team to their first non playoff season since 1983, and Chaney (who had served as assistant coach under Rothstein that year) pledged to be a great communicator. Composed of aging superstars such as Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer to go with new acquisitions such as Sean Elliott and draft pick Lindsey Hunter, the Pistons struggled after a 5-4 start. A practice scuffle between Thomas and Laimbeer saw a broken hand for Thomas and led Laimbeer to retire. A 14-game losing streak saw the team with eleven wins at the All-Star break.[13] By the end of a 13-game losing streak to end the year, the Pistons had won just 20 games to finish with their worst record since 1980. Thomas retired after the season due to an Achilles tendon rupture.

The following season would be the last one for Chaney. In a new era without Laimbeer and Thomas, the Pistons drafted Grant Hill and retooled their lineup. While Hill would shine as an All-Star pick, the Pistons crumbled by the midpoint of the year, with a 1-13 run at one point that saw Hunter hurt before the Pistons season came to a merciful end that saw them go 1-8 to end a year with 28 wins. On April 11, 1995, Chaney was fired, with Doug Collins replacing him.[14]

New York Knicks (2001–2004)[edit]

In the 2001-02 season, Chaney was serving as assistant head coach for the New York Knicks under Jeff Van Gundy. On December 10, 2001, Chaney became head coach of the Knicks to replace Van Gundy, who cited a "diminished focus" as a reason for resigning after 19 games. Noting the demands of owner James L. Dolan, Chaney stated that his goals were to win and make the playoffs. Contemporary reports stated that Dolan was hoping for a coach that would not only make a quality postseason run but also have a media-friendly coach, and Chaney was perceived as potentially cultivating a more relaxed atmosphere.[15] The team went 20-43 under Chaney as head coach for a total finish of 30-52, an eighteen-loss avalanche that saw miss the playoffs for the first time in fifteen years. Chaney was retained for the next season.

The following season saw the Knicks hope that first round draft pick Antonio McDyess would help carry the team out of the muck, but a knee injury saw him miss the whole season. As such, with a lineup of Allan Houston and company, the Knicks started the year 2-10 and never recover to make a serious run, with a 37-45 final record seeing them finish five games out of the eight seed. The 2003-04 season would see plenty of turmoil on all sides. Dolan sought out the services of Isiah Thomas to serve as his Thomas as President of Basketball Operations in December of that year while emphasizing a need to make the playoffs. Not long after, the Knicks traded for Stephon Marbury to try and right the ship of a miserable year that saw them mired in 10th place in the Eastern Conference 38 games into the season despite the highest payroll in the league. It came to a head during a January 8 game at Madison Square Garden where Knicks fans chanted "Fire Chaney!" during an miserable loss. Thomas, noting the player confidence in Chaney, stated that his job is to "sit back and evaluate and see where that process is going" in a seeming vote of confidence.[16] On January 14, Chaney was fired by the team, two hours before a game was to start. He went 72-112 as coach of the Knicks for a winning percentage of .391, which was fourth worst in team history.[17] The following year, Chaney stated that his one regret was that he never got a proper chance to see the team with a quality point guard in Marbury (traded to New York nine days prior to Chaney being fired) in full action.[18] He was offered a position as assistant to Paul Silas with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but he declined, hoping to find a head position somewhere. In 2004, he retired.


Head coaching record[edit]

Regular season G Games coached W Games won L Games lost W–L % Win–loss %
Playoffs PG Playoff games PW Playoff wins PL Playoff losses PW–L % Playoff win–loss %
Team Year G W L W–L% Finish PG PW PL PW–L% Result
L.A. Clippers 1984–85 21 9 12 .429 5th in Pacific Missed playoffs
L.A. Clippers 1985–86 82 32 50 .390 4th in Pacific Missed playoffs
L.A. Clippers 1986–87 82 12 70 .146 6th in Pacific Missed playoffs
Houston 1988–89 82 45 37 .549 2nd in Midwest 4 1 3 .250 Lost in First Round
Houston 1989–90 82 41 41 .500 5th in Midwest 4 1 3 .250 Lost in First Round
Houston 1990–91 82 52 30 .634 3rd in Midwest 3 0 3 .250 Lost in First Round
Houston 1991–92 52 26 26 .500 (fired)
Detroit 1993–94 82 20 62 .244 7th in Central Missed playoffs
Detroit 1994–95 82 28 54 .341 7th in Central Missed playoffs
New York 2001–02 63 20 43 .317 7th in Atlantic Missed playoffs
New York 2002–03 82 37 45 .451 6th in Atlantic Missed playoffs
New York 2003–04 39 15 24 .385 (fired)
Career 831 337 494 .406 11 2 9 .182

Personal life[edit]

Chaney during his coaching days was known for partaking in new "daredevil"-esque stunts just to see what they were like, including skydiving and racecar driving.[19] In 2019, he was diagnosed with Transthyretim Amyloid cardiomyopathy, a rare but possibly deadly disease that disproportionately impacts African Americans. He had assumed that his symptoms (fatigue, palpitations, shortness of breath and swollen ankles) were from his playing days, but he found that they matched with what family members had been experiencing before their death from heart disease. While the disease was hereditary, his sisters and daughters were tested and did not have the disease while his wife Jackie Chaney now served as a primary caregiver to help monitor his condition.[20]


  1. ^ "Warriors vs Celtics, February 28, 1973". Sports Reference. Retrieved April 3, 2022.
  2. ^ Cotton, Anthony (March 12, 1985). "Chaney 12th Black To Serve As Head Coach in the NBA". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved June 22, 2023.
  3. ^ S.johnson, Roy; Times, Special To the New York (November 3, 1985). "CLIPPER COACH STILL DREAMING". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 22, 2023.
  4. ^ Broussard, Chris (December 12, 2001). "Former Player Recalls Rough Side of Chaney". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 22, 2023.
  5. ^ "Worst NBA Teams Ever Comparison - National Basketball Association - ESPN". ESPN.com. Retrieved June 22, 2023.
  6. ^ "SPORTS PEOPLE; Shue to Coach Clippers". The New York Times. May 22, 1987. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 22, 2023.
  7. ^ "Don Chaney Stats". Basketball-Reference.com. Retrieved August 30, 2017.
  8. ^ "ROCKETS DON'T BLAME CHANEY, BUT STILL FIRE HIM". Chicago Tribune. February 19, 1992. Retrieved June 22, 2023.
  9. ^ "How Rudy Tomjanovich almost didn't become the Rockets' coach". Space City Scoop. April 12, 2020. Retrieved June 22, 2023.
  10. ^ "NBA Games Played on February 6, 1992". Basketball-Reference.com. Retrieved June 22, 2023.
  11. ^ "Rockets fire Coach Don Chaney - UPI Archives". UPI. Retrieved June 22, 2023.
  12. ^ "PRO BASKETBALL; Chaney to Coach Pistons And Be A Good Listener". The New York Times. May 4, 1993. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 22, 2023.
  13. ^ "NBA Games Played on February 10, 1994". Basketball-Reference.com. Retrieved June 22, 2023.
  14. ^ "SPORTS PEOPLE: PRO BASKETBALL; Pistons to Fire Chaney & Co., Report Says". The New York Times. April 11, 1995. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 22, 2023.
  15. ^ "ESPN.com: NBA - Chaney has the job, but Dolan has the final say". www.espn.com. Retrieved June 22, 2023.
  16. ^ "Thomas sticking with Chaney ... for now". ESPN.com. January 11, 2004. Retrieved June 22, 2023.
  17. ^ "Knicks fire Don Chaney - UPI.com". UPI. Retrieved June 22, 2023.
  18. ^ "CHANEY'S LAMENT – DON: I DIDN'T GET FAIR SHAKE AFTER KNICKS GOT MARBURY". November 17, 2004. Retrieved June 22, 2023.
  19. ^ Report during March 9, 2003 broadcast of The NBA on ABC
  20. ^ "Ex-NBA Coach Spreads the Word About Rare Heart Disease Affecting Blacks". Retrieved June 22, 2023.

External links[edit]