Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked

Sports

March 12, 2005

Goon Factory?

We still don't know if John Chaney's ugly tactics were an aberration or part of a pattern.

Carl Bialik

If Temple had won its Atlantic-10 semifinal game yesterday, the Owls would have faced St. Joseph's today in a rematch of one of the ugliest games this season.

On Feb. 22, Temple coach John Chaney sent in Nehemiah Ingram with the express purpose of fouling St. Joseph's players. Ingram fouled out in four minutes. One of his fouls broke John Bryant's arm and prematurely ended his career. Chaney's delegated act was premeditated; he'd told reporters before the game that he might send in a goon. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Chaney suspended himself for the A-10 tournament, but Ingram kept playing. If you can call it that. Since that game, he had 10 personal fouls in 23 minutes of play. This season he has played 77 minutes, in which he's amassed 12 points, 20 rebounds— and 31 personal fouls. That means he'd foul out in an average of 12.4 minutes, if he were allowed to play that much. It's a big step down from Ingram's junior season, when he played 14 minutes a game and grabbed an impressive 55 offensive rebounds.

Has Chaney turned Ingram, a promising but raw prospect four years ago, into a professional goon? John Calipari, no great friend of Chaney, suggests that the Temple coach has been sending in goons for years. (Chicago Tribune)

The Philadelphia Inquirer, in a sympathetic profile of Ingram after the goon game, quickly dispenses with the notion that Ingram has been used in this way before. "Committing fouls has never been much of a problem for Ingram. Going into Saturday's game, he had played just 54 minutes this season, and committed 21 fouls. Against Maryland, he had taken three fouls in five minutes. At South Carolina, it was three fouls in six minutes. But nobody had ever suggested he had intended to commit fouls in those games. They just came naturally."

That may well be. But here's a suggestion for Philadelphia sports editors, once the last local team is done playing: Spike the columns bloviating about Chaney with no new reporting. Instead, assign your reporters to interview opponents and watch game tape. See if Calipari is right about Chaney. Does he consistently use ugly tactics, or was the St. Joe's game merely an ugly aberration?

Carl Bialik

Carl Bialik, a co-founder of Gelf, is a writer for FiveThirtyEight.







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Article by Carl Bialik

Carl Bialik, a co-founder of Gelf, is a writer for FiveThirtyEight.

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