Reggie Chaney: the Tulsa-tough gentle giant

First, you must understand there’s no free time for a college basketball player. Not at this level. Not in this program. That’s true in October, more so in November, and their lives are non-stop by spring. So when you ask for a last-minute favor in March, you’re pretty much SOL.

Pan to last March, and we were set to do a short video shoot with the Spirit of Houston and some HOUNIL athletes. Something silly, goofy, fun, and quick. Like 5-10 minutes quick. We had two players lined up, but somehow that fell through. So after practice, I’m hustling to find someone to help us.

This was our only chance to do this – the team was leaving for the AAC Tournament the next day, and we damn sure wouldn’t bother them once the NCAA Tournament began. And they’d been at it all day with film and position meetings and lifting and practice, and, honestly, it was unlikely that we’d pull this off. Then, Emanuel Sharp walked out of the gym and graciously said yes, he just needed to shower first. But we still needed one more.

We were scrambling to find someone – the band and Emanuel Sharp were in, but we needed a big man. Or a little man. Or any man. From the Guy V. Lewis Development Facility lobby, you can see when players leave the locker room/lounge area and head to the dining area. As we were preparing to cancel, I saw Reggie Chaney walking across to get some food, and I threw a Hail Mary.

I ran up the stairs and told him our issue, our time crunch, and how it had all fallen apart. He listened and nodded, mumbling, ‘Yeah, yeah,’ which I can still hear now. And then he said cool, that sounds like fun. “I’d be happy to do it.” Didn’t ask us to wait for him to eat, just said let’s go.

Reggie came down with us to the Bert Winston Band Complex and spent 45 minutes shooting film, “playing” the tuba, dancing, talking to band members, enjoying, and hanging out. He had fun, but Reggie always found a way to have fun. He was serious, but he didn’t take himself seriously.

Thanks to Big Reg and Emanuel, we made some fun videos, and the Spirit of Houston made several more:

After hearing the news of Reggie’s passing Monday night, I was shocked like everyone else. But as the night went on, I just couldn’t shake it. I knew him, but I didn’t *know* him. Interacting with him, interviewing him, and doing several HOUNIL bits with him, I did get to see him in action. See how he reacted and treated outsiders. See how his teammates reacted around him.

He was beloved by those teammates, kidded about being “grandpa,” and, if not for being 6’8″ and 230 lbs with a mean streak, would have been a big ol’ teddy bear.

Kelvin Sampson praised Reggie for making winning basketball plays, for his willingness to accept coaching, for his grit, and his selfless instincts. He was the very personification of Cougar Culture.

Reggie affected his teams, teammates, games, seasons, and eras. His on-court speaks for itself. But the guy he was off the court is what I’ll remember.

I received a text last night from someone that was also in the locker room after the Miami loss in Kansas City in the Sweet 16. Reggie’s college career had just ended, and he was understandably shell-shocked. But as this person walked by, Reggie offered a fist bump and said thank you with a huge smile.

It wasn’t a one-off. He said thank you to everyone that night. Media members, staffers, people that worked in the arena. Among a team full of decent, respectful guys, he might have been the standout when it came to appreciating what he had.

In the last media availability before senior night, someone asked Reggie what his favorite memory was. He said it was when Fabian White Jr. became the all-time wins leader at UH. Not many people would call a former teammate’s accomplishment their favorite memory.

The next week, I wrote the following about Reggie. It describes him as a player, but it’s not how I’ll remember him:

The fun-loving but Tulsa-tough transfer is a street fighter and a warrior. “I love Reggie Chaney,” Kelvin Sampson has said time and again, a compliment reserved just for the culture warriors that define his program. Chaney is the old man in the group, the grizzled veteran that started on a Final Four team but has since sacrificed minutes for the good of the team. But when UH needs a jolt, Reggie is there with the thunderbolt.

Yeah, I’ll remember how he played through multiple injuries, unable to make a fist in 2021-22 after breaking his hand in a scrimmage, or how he endured a ton of back pain in 22-23. But more than that, I’ll remember how proud Reggie was when he received his UH degree in May. It meant so much to him, and it seemed Kelvin and the team, too. I’ll remember how he treated everyone with a smile and a kind word.

Reggie, the basketball player, was special. But he spent his life making sure everyone else felt special, too.


Reggie Chaney Obituary | Streaming of Reggie Chaney Memorial Service