Adam Fisher: John Chaney ‘smiling down on us’ as Temple wins

FORT WORTH, Texas — With his team on the cusp of its first trip to the NCAA tournament since 2019 after an improbable win over Florida Atlantic in the AAC tournament semifinals on Saturday, Temple coach Adam Fisher said he was thinking about John Chaney, the Owls coaching legend who died three years ago, following the victory.

“[Coach] Chaney is smiling down on us,” he told ESPN after Temple’s thrilling 74-73 victory over FAU, a Final Four squad a year ago.

With a win over UAB on Sunday, Fisher would complete one of the greatest in-season turnarounds in recent college basketball history, just a month after his team lost 10 games in a row. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Temple (5-13 American) would tie Holy Cross (2016) as the only teams to make the NCAA tournament with 13 conference losses. Saturday’s win was also the second-largest upset over the past 30 seasons for Temple, which was a 14.5-point underdog.

Saturday’s chaotic game ended as FAU star Johnell Davis committed a turnover on his errant pass and Temple’s Hysier Miller dove to the floor for the loose ball as time expired to seal the win.

It was a fortuitous moment for a program that had not experienced that bliss for the majority of the season. Last month, Temple had an 8-17 record — 1-11 in the American — after a 10-game losing streak.

And earlier this month the school announced that it had launched an investigation after a gambling watchdog company flagged a matchup between UAB and Temple for suspicious gambling activity.

Fisher, a first-year head coach, said his team stayed “locked in” amid its challenges as it orchestrated an 8-2 record in its last 10 games.

“We use the term loose and locked in,” he said after the game. “If you’re at our shootaround, we get after it, we’re detail-oriented, but we have fun. We’ve got to enjoy the moment. Our focus is always on getting better. We don’t really talk about winning and losing and this and that.”

Fisher has preached “Temple Tough” all week. He’s also invited former players to speak to his team.

He said he has conveyed the significance of the team’s history so his players understand those who came before them. He credits Chaney and the other legends of the program for the opportunity his team will have on Sunday to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time in five years amid a challenging season. He said the team has a board in its arena that every former player signs whenever they visit.

Temple will also be the third team since 1939 to play five conference tournament games in five days, per ESPN Stats & Information research.

“It’s one of the winningest programs in all of college basketball,” Fisher said. “We have great facilities, we get great charter flights, all these amazing things because of all the great players that came before us.

“So, we play for those guys that came before us. We know they have led Temple to places we want to go to. I think there is no better way to get to where you want to go than to hear from people that have done it and done it in that cherry and white.”

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