The first day was very awkward. So were the second day and the third and the fourth. It was no better the rest of the first week and on into the second. Tracy was anxiety-ridden, worrying about whether Chaney was using his toothbrush and put off because Chaney would talk only in one-word sentences.
Tracy was sure it wasn't going to work out. He called his father in Brooklyn and asked what he should do. Talk to him, Tracy was told. But he couldn't bring himself to take the first step in a conversation about emotions. After all, in Tracy's old neighborhood, anyone who had feelings was a sissy.
But one night as they lay in their beds with the lights out, the glow from the street lights filtering through the blinds, Chaney listening to his radio turned down low, Tracy knew this was the time.
"Now that I'm a television director, I know it created a feel," Tracy said. "He was listening to (singer) Nancy Wilson. This was my chance. I could say anything I wanted and not look at him. If he called me a name and said he didn't give a darn, I could pull the covers over my head and then dodge him the next 10 months."
Tracy reminded Chaney that they were sharing the same room, living in close company. They were sharing the same problems. They both knew they were uncomfortable. Maybe they should tell Lewis it wasn't working out. Tracy said he could hear Chaney breathing and his own heart beating.
Tracy said it seemed like hours before Chaney answered.
"He said, 'You know this is awkward for me, but I need you to understand something,' " Tracy said. " 'Never in my life have I ever been allowed to speak to white people without getting permission.'
"That just stunned me."
Chaney began explaining what it was like to grow up black in Baton Rouge. Tracy told Chaney about growing up as an Irish-Catholic in an Italian-Catholic neighborhood, about how he had never sat in school with someone who wasn't Catholic until he got to Houston. They began sharing other stories. They began to know each other. They began a friendship.
The lights-out talks became a nightly forum. Sometimes they would talk for five minutes, sometimes for an hour. Eventually, Chaney stopped thinking that Tracy was getting paid to room with him. And Tracy stopped using Chaney's toothpaste, as he had been doing because he was convinced that was what made Chaney jump higher.
But if they were beginning to see one another as equals at Baldwin House, they were nowhere close to that at Jeppesen Field House. Hayes and Chaney were freshman sensations and it became clear to Tracy that playing time was going to be in short supply very soon.
"Once I saw Don play as a freshman, I knew I was never going to play," Tracy said.
And once Chaney joined the varsity for the 1965-66 season, Tracy barely moved from the bench. He got into only eight games all year, for a total of eight minutes, and scored four points.
But Tracy still practiced hard and felt no animosity toward his roommate. In fact, they became closer. They went to a Ray Charles concert at the Sam Houston Coliseum. One night, Tracy accompanied Chaney to a basketball game at Texas Southern, where Grambling had come to play, featuring a player named Willis Reed. Tracy was the only white in the gymnasium.
Chaney and Tracy went to the movies together, ate together, studied together and even walked out of the miniature golf course together when the owner wouldn't let Chaney play because he was black. Rooming with Chaney certainly was not dull. Chaney received death threats in the mail and was taunted by other athletes in the dorm.
Eventually, Tracy graduated, left the team, got married and moved back to Brooklyn to begin his entertainment career, and Chaney moved on and up in basketball. But they stayed in touch, even though it was something of a loose arrangement.
"He is like a brother to me," Chaney said. "My brother knows how I feel about him. I don't have to call him every day."
When Chaney was drafted by the Boston Celtics, Tracy called to congratulate him on being chosen by an Irish team. When the Celtics came to New York, Tracy was there at Madison Square Garden to watch him play. They called and wrote letters over the years at important times, such as when the Houston Rockets fired Chaney as head coach last season.
"I told him he always had a friend," Tracy said.
And so it goes, this odd-couple friendship, which is what Chaney calls his 29-year relationship with Tracy.
"Two different people, two different backgrounds, two different races, two different colors, two different upbringings, two different sides of the world coming together," Chaney said. "It's sort of nice to know that this happened. And you know the best part of it? It's a true story."