'Godfather' of high school basketball Mac Irvin dies

December 27, 2011 5:06:31 AM PST
Many across the sports world are mourning the loss of legendary basketball figure McGlother "Mac" Irvin. Irvin turned a small South Side basketball program into one of the best in the country.

On Christmas Eve, Irvin, age 74, passed away from complications brought on by diabetes. Those who knew him and were helped by him have praised their mentor for teaching life lessons as well as basketball skills.

There is a passion to coaching and scouting out high school talent understood and practiced over the years by Irvin, who was so successful at it in Chicago that he became known as the 'godfather' of high school basketball.

Irvin was a surrogate father, mentor and coach to so many other kids who came through the ranks of his amateur basketball teams.

"My father was genuine when he talked to you. You always felt the love. And we all getting phone calls right now, getting text messages and one thing people are always saying is that Pops made us feel loved and made us feel special," said Lance Irvin, son.

"He was always very happy about their success in life rather than just basketball. I mean, if they went on to do something really great, he would be pleased about it," said Louise Irvin, widow.

"We want to grab all these kids and say, because, not only are we doing basketball, we're preaching...you can be successful without playing basketball," said Mike Irvin, son.

A member of the Illinois High School Basketball Hall of Fame, Irvin coached lots of future NBA stars through his summer camps and teams including players like Kobe Byrant and Shawn Marion. His family remembers players like Shaquille O'Neal, Antoine Walker and Tim Hardaway sleeping over. They were basketball stars but Irvin taught them about life.

"My father was not just an ordinary father. He was my best friend, my mentor, my listener, my role model," said Cindy Irvin, daughter.

Former NBA star Sonny Parker played for and later coached with Irvin. His son Jabari also played for Irvin. Jabari, o f top-ranked Simeon High School, is rated the best junior player in the country.

"He really cared about us as a family but all these kids that were part of his family and I haven't seen anyone that even come close to some of the things that he did. He did it because he cared," said Parker.

"He'd just been there for me since day one, like a father figure, for my dad as well as someone I can talk to," said Jabari.

Friend and scout Larry Butler goes back several decades with Irvin.

"That's from all the good deeds for young people over the years. He was always helping, that's something his legacy will always carry over for the young people of our state," said Butler.

Marcus King of Lee College in Texas didn't know him for as many years but immediately knew of Irvin's impact on the game.

"He had a vision. He was a caretaker of the game. He had knowledge and he shared it," said King.

Irvin built an emphasis on club basketball, leading the Fire, a team that bore his name. That club approach, which included summertime play and a lot of travel, has changed the high school basketball landscape.

As a coach and to some a father figure, Mac Irvin taught some basketball basics: be a good thinker, play hard and no one is better than you. If he thinks so, then make him show you.

"No player is treated better than others and once you're part of that family, they take care of you that's something he started," said Brandon Thomas, Seton Academy coach.

"I will always remember him saying it's about the kids. He was one of the true ambassadors of the game. That's a lost art in this day and time," said Butler.

Service information for McGlother "Mac" Irvin:

Thurs, Dec. 29th
Visitation 7-9pm
Leak & Sons Funeral Home
7838 South Cottage Grove Ave.

Friday, Dec. 30th
Wake 10 am
Funeral Service 11 am
West Point Missionary Baptist Church
3558 South Cottage Grove Ave

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