High School: Mac Irvin

Morgan Park avoids upset loss at tourney

December, 27, 2011
HILLSIDE, Ill. -- There were plenty of reasons to believe Morgan Park was heading toward a first-round upset loss to Hinsdale Central at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament on Tuesday.

[+] EnlargeMorgan Park
Scott Powers/ESPNChicago.comMorgan Park coach Nick Irvin, middle, and brother Mike Irvin, far right, experienced a wide range of emotions on Tuesday.
There was the score -- Hinsdale Central 48, Morgan Park 47. There was the time remaining -- 12.6 seconds. There was the fact that Hinsdale Central was going to the free-throw line with a chance to widen its lead.

But Morgan Park assistant coach Mike Irvin never doubted his team was going to win.

He knew his dad, legendary Chicago basketball figure Mac Irvin, who had died on Saturday, was watching over Morgan Park.

“In my mind, I knew in the last seconds we were going to win because God works in mysterious ways,” Mike Irvin said.

His premonition proved true. Hinsdale Central missed both free throws. Morgan Park pushed the ball up court. Billy Garrett Jr. drove, missed a floater, grabbed the rebound and scored around the basket with two second seconds remaining.

Hinsdale Central’s buzzer-beating attempt missed its mark, and Morgan Park prevailed 50-49 in the opening game at Proviso West.

Just after the win, Morgan Park head coach Nick Irvin, one of Mac’s five sons, threw his right fist up in the air and shook it as a tribute to his father.

“I’m taking it one day at a time and doing what Pops wants me to do,” said Nick, whose team will play Glenbrook North on Wednesday. “I’m still talking to him. I can still hear his voice. ‘You got to get up and be for kids.’ I’m going to continue to do it. It’s tough, but he would have wanted me to be here.

“Today was very emotional. Getting up at 7 in the morning, barely sleeping all night and just getting up and coming. But I looked up to the sky, and he told me to get up and go be for the kids. That’s what I do.”

Before and after the game, Mike and Nick and their brother Lance Irvin, who is also a Morgan Park assistant, struggled with their emotions, but they felt at ease during the game.

“Before the game, I was a wreck,” Lance said. “Just to be able to coach and stuff for a couple hours, just thinking about nothing else, it was good. Pops would have wanted us to coach, so it felt good.”

Hinsdale Central’s two missed free throws allowed Morgan Park to take control of the game in the final seconds, but the game may have also been decided by two free throws the Red Devils missed on purpose to the start the game.

The game began with Morgan Park receiving a technical for wearing illegal pinstriped jerseys. Morgan Park had received a waiver from the IHSA for its jerseys at the start of the season, but the officials told the Mustangs their waiver was no longer valid.

Hinsdale Central coach Nick Latorre didn’t want an unfair advantage, so he had junior Brian Owens miss the two free throws.

“I really respect the coach over at Hinsdale,” Nick Irvin said. “He gave up the two free throws. That was a classy act by him. He didn’t want the game to be decided by free throws early on. It could have decided the game.”

Garrett Jr. scored a game-high 21 points. Kierre Perkins had six points and 13 rebounds for Morgan Park (6-2).

Owens had 18 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals. Tom Garvin contributed 15 points and nine rebounds for Hinsdale Central (5-3).

Chicago mourns passing of Mac Irvin

December, 25, 2011
Legendary Chicago basketball figure McGlother "Mac" Irvin died Saturday.

The 74-year-old Irvin's cause of death was unknown. He was diabetic and had been rehabbing at the Rehabilitation Institute in Chicago since having his knee amputated in July due to complications with the disease.

Irvin was known as the "Godfather" throughout the Chicago basketball community. He ran the Mac Irvin Fire, a Nike-sponsored team, which has consistently been one of the nation's premier club programs. He was among the first coaches to take Chicago players around the country to compete and had been involved with the club scene since 1992. He also created the Mac Irvin Foundation which assists at-risk youth and was widely regarded for his generosity to all children.

His passing was a shock to the Chicago basketball community.

"It just saddens me to hear about Mac passing away," said Larry Butler, who coached with Irvin in the early 1990s and later feuded with him over rival club teams. "We had our deal with one another, but I had a lot of respect for him. I will always cherish the experiences we had together in the early years.

"He was always about kids. He was always about young people. ‘Got to take care of the kids.' I can still hear him saying that."

Sonny Parker, who had starred in Chicago before playing in the NBA, had known Irvin most of his life. Parker played for Irvin when he was in high school, and later his sons played for him. His youngest son, Jabari, who is the nation's top junior, is currently a member of the Mac Irvin Fire.

"He's been such a part of my family and me a part of his family," Parker said of Irvin. "He was a big influence in our community. He was very uplifting. He had a lot of knowledge, a lot of wisdom. He would tell me some of things when I was playing, and I would say, ‘Wow, Mr. Irvin.' I always called him Mr. Irvin.

"He won't be replaced because no one can replace him. The thing he started, though, we can continue it on with his legacy."

Reggie Rose, who is Derrick Rose's older brother and runs the D-Rose All-Stars club team, said he and his family were also affected by Irvin's passing.

"Our family gives our condolences," Reggie Rose said. "Mr. Irvin was a pioneer when it came to Chicago basketball."

Former NBA all-star Antoine Walker is among Irvin's famous alumni. To Walker, Irvin was much more than a coach.

"For me, it's a little different," Walker said. "I've been around him since I was 8, 9 years old. He played different roles. He was a father figure. He was someone who taught basketball at a different level. He pushed me to be the best I could be as a basketball player. He gave me great advice on becoming a good basketball player. He was also a huge fan of mine and very supportive throughout my career."

DePaul assistant coach Billy Garrett was also among the people Irvin had a special relationship with. Garrett assisted Irvin for seven years before becoming a college coach. Garrett's son, Billy Jr., now plays for the Mac Irvin Fire.

"He took me in for no reason," Garrett said. "He helped mold me as a man.He made me credible in the basketball world. Because of my relationship with him, people showed me respect. He was like a surrogate father. God puts people in your life for a reason."

Illinois coach Bruce Weber got to know Irvin while recruiting his players. A number of Weber's current players, including Meyers Leonard, Mike Shaw and Myke Henry, played for the Mac Irvin Fire.

"Sad day for Chicago basketball," Weber said. "Mac was a special man who gave many opportunities to kids to have a chance to be a success through basketball."

In recent years, Irvin had relinquished his club program to his children. He has five sons -- Byron, Lance, McGlother Jr., Mike and Nick -- and one daughter -- Cynthia. Bryon is an NBA agent. Lance is a basketball coach and was most recently an assistant at Southern Illinois University. Mike runs the Mac Irvin Fire program. Nick is Morgan Park's varsity boys basketball coach. McGlother Jr. runs the Mac Irvin Lady Fire, a girls club team. Cynthia works for the Chicago Board of Education.

The Irvin family released a statement on Saturday evening.

"Today we lost a father, brother, husband and friend to many throughout the world," the statement read. "At this difficult time we are comforted by the outpouring of support shown to our family over the last few months during Mac's illness. We know many others are in mourning as we are with today's surprising news. We look forward to responding to each act of kindness shown to us in the near future. Your gestures of kindness are appreciated.

"The Irvin family is committed to continuing the legacy of Mac Irvin through his foundation, but more importantly, by following the example he left for us through his life's work."