Mike Vreeswyk on the Lessons Taught by John Chaney

by Eric Dixon

Philadelphia, PA – August 23, 2021 – “All of this happened very quickly.  It was at that point Chaney leaped to his feet and yelled “HE JUST WALKED”!!  So the ref blew the whistle a split second later and called a traveling violation.  I’m sitting there thinking my coach just complained about traveling ON HIS OWN TEAM!” recalled Mike Vreeswyk, the former Temple forward and 1995 Big 5 Hall of Fame inductee. 

Mike Vreeswyk and Hall of Fame Temple Coach, John Chaney

This was just one of the many anecdotes Vreeswyk shared with me over email and lunch near his Bucks County home. He compiled a collection of these memories initially shared as social media posts. Some were funny, while others were cautionary, but all were interesting and packed with the lessons he’d learned under legendary head coach, John Chaney, and his experience playing nine plus seasons overseas in locales from Belgium to Japan. 

Through these stories Vreewyk paints an endearing portrait of Coach Chaney, the irascible, foul-mouthed, loving, caring, compassionate and dedicated “builder of men” who “saved lives by offering opportunities”. Chaney, as he did so many who played under him when he stalked the sidelines as head coach at Temple University (1982-2006), left an indelible impression on Vreeswyk, teaching him life lessons that he carried to places beyond his wildest dreams. In winning 741 games as a coach, Chaney did a great job preparing his players to win games. He probably did a better job preparing those young men to win at life.

Howie Evans, Mike Vreeswyk and John Chaney

Vreeswyk came from humble beginnings, enduring many familial hardships, including poverty that drove him to find solace and respite in the confines of the basketball court. It was his safe place after his parents divorced and his world began to crumble. This cauldron of instability and insecurity forged him into a hardworking, humble player with a healthy respect for the scarcity of opportunities and the need to capitalize on them. It would also lead him to an eventual appreciation for the man he came to love and respect. At first he avoided Chaney because he was put off and a bit fearful of his loud and often profane methods of verbal communication. However, as he said in a quote that was published in the Philadelphia Inquirer in connection with Chaney’s induction into the Basketball Hall of fame, he began to be drawn to his wisdom.

“As a freshman I stayed away as much as possible because he was always arguing, fussing, and yelling at me about turnovers and defense.  As a sophomore some of it started to sink in and I actually would drop by the basketball office in between some classes and occasionally in the summer.  As a junior it hit me for the first time that my time in the presence of such knowledge is waning.  The yelling didn’t matter anymore; I wanted to be around coach as much as possible.  As a senior, pure fear set in as I spent seemingly every waking hour with him to soak up as much as I could, knowing it would end soon. And it wasn’t all basketball. Congratulations, coach Chaney, and thanks.” – Philadelphia Inquirer, 2001.

Temple Owls 1987-88, Ranked Number 1 in the Nation

After some uncertainty as to where he would attend HS, the two-time Pennsylvania All-State honoree that broke the scoring records at Morrisville High School chose Temple from amongst 100 or so schools that vied for his services. What came next was a “shocking. . . slap in the face”. The 2000 point scorer who averaged 34 ppg his senior year would find himself nailed to Chaney’s bench his freshman season, which he finished with a poultry 1.5 ppg. “I just had to get better,” said Vreeswyk, who credited his teammates, especially Nate Blackwell, for helping him get through the difficult year.

The following year he would learn the first of the most important lessons he learned under Chaney: “Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready”. Vreeswyk began his sophomore year in a familiar place, the bench. However, after a handful of games where the players in front of him were ineffective, Chaney gave him an opportunity to “earn his trust”. And “Threeswyk”, as he became known, seized it. “I worked hard and I knew I was ready”. 

Another important lesson Chaney imparted to him was the importance of “Understanding one’s self. Know your strengths and weaknesses”. Another facet of that is learning how to thrive in difficult, uncomfortable situations. This lesson helped Vreeswyk endure two separate injuries he suffered in Europe in 1997. A torn meniscus and broken nose threatened to end his campaign but a willingness to endure a surgery he watched and an excruciating procedure to straighten his nose allowed him to continue to play. 

A practical lesson he learned was the value of being punctual and prepared. However, Chaney was not satisfied with just making sure a player was responsible for his own punctuality and preparedness, he also insisted that he be responsible for his roommate as well. On one occasion Vreeswyk found himself darting through an airport concourse frantically in search of a tie because his roommate refused to take the dress code mandate seriously enough. Unfortunately his efforts were fruitless and his roommate travelled to an away contest in Charlotte, NC without the requisite tie and jacket Chaney insisted upon. The roommate was sent home the same day while Chaney chewed Vreeswyk out for not being able to properly assist his roommate.

“Be a good person,” he said, recounting one of the most important lessons he still carries today. Vreeswyk is active in his community and believes in giving back as often as possible. “I never turned anyone down when they ask me to speak at a camp or something” because Vreeswyk understands the impact he can have on people who have watched him over the years and he wants that impact to be a positive one.

CareerPath of Thomas Caban: The Trade School Route

August 22, 2021 – Camden, New JerseyThomas Caban is a bright young man of Puerto Rican descent. Thomas lives in Camden, New Jersey. He is also a recent high school graduate. Thomas is in the midst of transitioning from high school to the world of competitive employment. Thomas is forgoing the college path and taking the trade school route. This is really not surprising to anyone that knows Thomas. From the time he took his first steps, Thomas has been an inquisitive and eager boy with a strong love for cars.

John Donofrio, Service Manager at Mall Chevrolet and Thomas Caban

Thomas has decided to pursue a careerpath that would lead to employment as an automotive repair technician. He enrolled in the Dreamchasers Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) program last fall. Thomas expects Dreamchasers to help him navigate the complex process of becoming a certified automotive tech and obtain entry level employment as an auto technician once training is complete.

Thomas at Mall Chevrolet WBLE

While we discussed and explored other industries, his commitment to the auto industry never wavered. Thomas, his brother in-law and his father are all passionate about cars. His brother in-law is a certified truck mechanic and his father builds and races cars. Thomas is all in on the automotive industry. It’s in his blood.

Thomas during visit to Camden County Automotive Repair Program

Thomas is ready to work. He possesses the traits and skills that employers seek from most employees. Thomas worked as a cart attendant at Home Depot for more than six months, October 2020 – May 2021. Through direct observation of his work and discussions with his supervisors and co-workers it is apparent that Thomas has strong readiness skills. Thomas demonstrates the soft skills and employability skills desired by employers. Moreover, he has demonstrated an ability to identify and obtain entry level competitive employment. He currently works part-time in the maintenance department at the Bancroft School. He works 5pm to 9pm five days per week. He earns in excess of $16.00 per hour. Thomas has zero debt and lives with his parents.

Thomas is stable and seeks to begin his career as an auto technician. Thomas is determined to work in the US automotive repair and maintenance services industry. The Dreamchasers Pre-ETS program will assist him in determining where he will train and work. The US auto repair industry includes about 162,000 establishments (single-location companies and units of multi-location companies) with combined annual revenue of about $115 billion. There will always be a demand for repairs of cars. Thomas has chosen an in-demand industry.

Work-Based Learning Experience

Dreamchasers encourages Thomas to think about where he fits in this huge industry. The Pre-ETS program provides Thomas with extensive guidance as he gathers information and makes important educational and vocational choices. Toward that end, Thomas participated in a work-based learning experience at Mall Chevrolet in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Dreamchasers used the 15 bay service department of the largest volume Chevrolet dealer in Southern New Jersey to provide Thomas with the knowledge and skills that will help him connect school experiences to real-life work activities. Thomas was exposed to a fast paced, busy state of the art service repair operation for more than six weeks. He worked as an unpaid intern from 8am to 12pm, Monday through Wednesday.

So… Thomas, you say you want to be an auto technician? Dreamchasers put you next to auto technicians for six weeks to make sure that’s what you want to do. Are you still sure? You see the pace of the work? You see the technological knowledge requirements. You see how they apply mathematical skills to complete tasks as necessary? You see how they have to read and interprets repair manuals and documents? You will have to work hard Bro…

If you are sure you want to go down this path, we’re with you.

It was essential that Mall Chevrolet was the direct employer in the work-based learning experience. This ensured in-depth student engagement. Thomas reported to work just like everyone else in the service department. This opportunities was meant to engage, motivate and augment the learning process. Dreamchasers provides these work-based learning experiences in conjunction with private, for-profit, public or nonprofit businesses throughout New Jersey and through web-based resources.

Developing Strategies for Smooth Transition-High School to Automotive Training

Dreamchasers supports smooth transitions from high school to postsecondary education (PSE) by assisting with the following:

  • documenting academic accommodations
  • advocating for needed accommodations & services
  • promoting use of executive function skills
  • assisting with researching career & PSE options
  • promoting participation in PSE preparation classes, etc.
  • connecting to PSE resources/ services/websites
  • promoting use of self-advocacy skills
  • assisting with application/ enrollment process
  • identifying financial aid options
  • familiarizing with education and vocational laws
  • identifying technology needs
  • identifying admission tests accommodations
  • applying for Vocational Rehabilitation services, if eligible
  • providing PSE information to family members
  • accessing services & supports from developmental/ intellectual disabilities service agency, if eligible

Dreamchasers fosters maximum flexibility in the career decision making process, especially in the early phases of Post-Secondary Education (PSE) planning.  We tried to get Thomas to consider alternate careerpaths. He is very firm in his decision to become an auto technician. He was exposed to wide range of career pathway options and labor market realities and projections. Thomas made his decision and embarked upon the search for a training program that could help him reach his goal.

Thomas visiting Training Programs

Support While in the Training Program

Dreamchasers is steadfast in our commitment to self-determination. We strongly adhere to the belief that all individuals have the right to direct their own lives. Young people who have self-determination skills have a stronger chance of being successful in making the transition to adulthood, including employment and independence. Dreamchasers will continue to provide Thomas with extensive instruction in selfadvocacy. The goal will be to improve his ability to effectively communicate, convey, negotiate or assert his/her own interests and/or desires. Dreamchasers wants to see Thomas have the freedom to plan his own life, pursue the things that are important to him and to experience the same life opportunities as others in their communities.

Dreamchasers Instruction on Self-Advocacy includes:

  • self -awareness
  • decision making
  • set goals
  • evaluate options
  • identify independence
  • accommodations
  • request & utilize accommodations
  • know your rights & responsibilities
  • self-determination
  • know how to request & accept help
  • intrinsic motivation
  • taking a leadership role
  • in support plans
  • assertiveness
  • listen to others opinions
  • problem solving
  • monitor progress
  • positive self-talk

Thomas has made his decision, he applied for admission to Respond, Inc.’s Automotive Repair Program. Dreamchasers will be right there with Thomas as he makes his way though this rigorous and rewarding program.

Do you want to LEARN2WORK?

Trying to figure it out?


Delgreco K. Wilson

Dreamchasers Community Services, LLC

Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS Program)

dwilson@dreamchaserscommunityservices.com – email

929-499-7999 – telephone

Calculating Black Cager Academic Index for Philadelphia Public/Charter High Schools

The Black Cager Academic Index is designed to help parents, students and student-athletes make informed High School enrollment decisions. The Black Cager Academic Index scores allows parents to compare and contrast the extent to which schools are producing students that satisfy the requirements of the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). The Black Cager Academic Index is based on the Keystone Exam score results for each school.

The Keystone Exams are state-mandated end-of-course assessments in Algebra I, Biology and Literature. Each Keystone Exam is divided into two parts called modules. Student scores are based on the total points earned from the two modules combined. The scores are then broken down into the following categories: Advanced, Proficient, Basic and Below Basic. Students must score in the Advanced or Proficient range to show mastery of the content. Basic and Below Basic scores do not demonstrate mastery and are considered failing scores.

Students must take a Keystone exam at the end of each of the Keystone-assessed courses. (i.e.: At the end of the year, students in Biology will take the Biology Keystone Exam.) Per state law, the Pennsylvania Department of Education requires schools to put the highest level of proficiency level for each Keystone exam on the student’s transcript.

Algebra 1 – Black Cager Academic Index Calculation
(%Advanced * 2) + (% Proficient) – (% Basic) – (% Below Basic * 2)

Biology – Black Cager Academic Index Calculation
(%Advanced * 2) + (% Proficient) – (% Basic) – (% Below Basic * 2)

Literature – Black Cager Academic Index Calculation
(%Advanced * 2) + (% Proficient) – (% Basic) – (% Below Basic * 2)

Individual HS – Black Cager Academic Index
(Algebra 1 Index + Biology Index + Literature Index)/3

If 100% of the students score in the Advanced range for Algebra 1, the school’s Black Academic Index for Algebra 1 will be 200.

(100 * 2) + (0) – (0) – (0 * 2) = 200

If 100% of the students score in the Below Basic range for Algebra 1, the school’s Black Academic Index for Algebra 1 will be -200.

(0 * 2) + (0) – (0) – (100 * 2) = -200

Thus, the range for the Black Cager Academic Index for each of the three (3) subject areas is 200 to -200.

The range for the Black Cager Academic Index for the High School as a whole is calculated by adding the three (3) subject area scores together and dividing the total by three.

Thus the range for the Black Cager Academic Index for each of the Public/Charter High School is also 200 to -200.

The scores will be ranked and accssible to any parent, student or student-athlete considering enrollment in or a transfer to any Philadelphia Public/Charter school.

Community Leaders Converge on Wildwood, NJ for a “Community Walk”

August 10, 2021 (Wildwood, New Jersey) – The Cape May County Coalition for a Safe Community sponsored a Community Walk in Wildwood, New Jersey on August 10, 2021. The Acting New Jersey State Attorney General Andrew Buck, Wildwood Mayor Pete Byron, Assemblyman Antwan McClellan and a host of other civic and community leaders walked together through the Wildwood community in unity. This innovative event was organized to help build, meaningful and authentic relationships within Wildwood City, Cape May County and Southern New Jersey.

Mayor Byron (l) and Assemblyman McClellan (r)

The event organizers and community leaders have recognized that social capital and engagement have declined in areas such as organizational membership, attending religious services, attending club meetings, and interacting with others face-to-face in communities. These authentic interactions are the glue that binds strong communities. The Cape May County Coalition for a Safe Community is diligently working to address the deficit in social capital that is harming individuals, communities, and America.

Assemblyman McClellan (l), Attorney General Bruck (c) and Temple Freshman Zach Hicks (r)

Attorney General Bruck, Mayor Byron and Assemblyman McClellan are committed to reversing this trend and revitalizing New Jersey’s social capital. The Cape May County Coalition for a Safe Community is an important vehicle through which crucial work is being done to strengthen connections among neighbors. The Community Walk is a prime example of the ways in which volunteering, reciprocity, and trust in others can positively impact New Jersey communities. Hundreds of children eager to return to learning environments after a year marred by the Covid-19 pandemic received FREE Book Bags & School Supplies.

IUP sophomore Jalen Hudson (l), Temple Freshman Zach Hicks (c) and Kenneth Fowlkes, Office of Resilience (r)

Kenneth Fowlkes, Supervisor of the New Jersey Office of Resilience, traveled from Trenton to Cape May County to participate in the walk. “My office is dedicated to creating opportunities to eradicate Adverse Childhood Experiences through grassroots and community-led efforts, technical assistance and strategic support for organizations already pursuing this work. The important work of The Cape May County Coalition for a Safe Community falls squarely into the purview of what we are attempting to achieve. We fully support Mayor Byron and Assemblyman McClellan’s efforts here in Cape May County. We need more of these initiatives.”

Zach Hicks (l) and Jalen Hudson (r) with Wildwood Youth

Dreamchasers Community Services brought a couple collegiate student-athletes to participate in the Community Walk. Zach Hicks, a freshman scholarship basketball player at Temple University and Jalen Hudson, a sophomore scholarship football player at Indiana University of Pennsylvania were eager to help out. Hicks said, “I spend a lot of time in Wildwood and I always enjoy myself. Anything I can to to help this strengthen community I will do. I look forward to coming back to Wildwood every summer.”

Hudson echoed Hicks, “My friends and I love Wildwood. When I was younger, a lot of adults helped me understand the importance of being a high character individual. I try to instill that message in kids every chance I get.” Delgreco Wilson, Dreamchasers Director of Youth Programs was impressed with the gathering on a sweltering Tuesday afternoon.

Wilson stated, “Dreamchaser looks forward to working with the Cape May County Coalition for a Safe Community to help young NJ residents develop and refine job skills. We are committed to serving this community and will be reaching out to schools and other youth serving organizations over the next month or so. Attorney General Bruck, Mayor Byron and Assmblyman McClellan are doing exactly what needs to be done. The way to truly make a difference is to interact with others face-to-face in the community. I am grateful that they invited Dreamchasers to participate.”