One of the most successful high school coaches in Illinois is making the jump to college basketball.
Nick Irvin, who won four Class 3A state titles at Morgan Park in the last 12 seasons, has joined Rob Jeter’s new staff at Western Illinois.
“Nick is a winner,” Jeter said in a statement. ‘‘He’s an energetic, successful head coach who has proven to develop high-level student-athletes. I have a ton of respect for Nick and the Irvin family. For such a big city, the Chicago basketball community is tight-knit, and the Irvins have strong ties. Coming back to Chicago and giving one of our own an opportunity was a priority for me, and I’m excited to have Nick join us at Western.”
Irvin’s brother Lance is the head coach at Chicago State, and Corry Irvin, his sister-in-law, is the women’s coach at St. Xavier.
Irvin was 301-70 at Morgan Park and won at least 20 games in all 12 seasons. He coached two Sun-Times Players of the Year: Charlie Moore (2016) and Wayne Blackshear (2011).
‘‘There have been a lot of wins and state titles among coaches, but we never move up,” Irvin said of his fellow successful city coaches. “This was that opportunity for me, and I had to run with it.”
Irvin resigned from his security job at the school earlier this year, fueling speculation that he would take a different high school job for the 2020-21 season. Then the opportunity arrived at Western Illinois.
“This is a bittersweet day for all of us,” Morgan Park athletic director Michael Berger said in a statement. “[Irvin] will be greatly missed around the halls of Morgan Park High School with his positive attitude, the great way he connects with people, how hard he works and his infectious laugh.”
Irvin’s success with the Mustangs took their local rivalry with Simeon, the established powerhouse, to a new level.
“Everyone wants to see this game,” Irvin said in 2010. “We beat them last time. We run Vincennes. That’s the way it’s going to be. We are coming after them.”
That led to Simeon vs. Morgan Park being dubbed the Battle of Vincennes. It developed into the area’s most spirited rivalry.
Irvin joins Chad Boudreau and Kyle Heikkinen on Jeter’s staff at Western.
“When putting together a staff, I had a few key things in mind,” Jeter said. “I wanted an experienced staff with head-coaching experience, high-character and high-energy coaches with a passion for recruiting and development, and a group who would work well together. I believe I’ve accomplished each of those things with these hires.”
Irvin sees the job ahead to be similar to the one he inherited when he took over at Morgan Park.
“I look at Western Illinois as being what it was when I was hired at Morgan Park,” Irvin said. “It’s going to take a lot of work to build it up.”
Irvin hopes to be able to tap into the Mac Irvin Fire program, one of the top talent-producing AAU programs in the country.
“It takes players,” Irvin said. “My objective is to get the right fit for Western Illinois.”
The Morgan Park job is one of several high-profile openings in the area. Reggie Bates recently stepped down at Hyde Park, and there are vacancies at Oak Park and St. Viator.
Contributing: Joe Henricksen