By Patrice Nkrumah, Chicago Crusader
After decades of ineptitude and frustration, Chicago State University students and alumni were elated with the news that Lance Chandler Irvin had been selected as the new head men’s basketball coach. The school has also hired Misty Opat to lead the women’s team, a program that has only won one game the past two seasons.
Irvin, whose father McGlother Irvin Jr. was known as the “godfather” of high school basketball, takes over at a school that is just miles from where he grew up and played prep basketball at Julian High School. Irvin’s selection by new Athletic Director Chris Zorich, could be one of the most important hires in CSU’s history as the University has faced a number of difficult financial years along with negative press related to self-inflicted scandals at the school by previous administrations.
“The hiring of Misty Opat and Lance Irvin marks a new day for Chicago State University,” said Z Scott, President of CSU. “We are delighted to have them aboard and look forward to their positive influence in our school community.”
Irvin’s selection is important because his family runs the Mac Irvin Fire travel basketball program, one of the most successful in the country. Fire alums include current NBA players Jalen Brunson, Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor, and Sterling Brown, along with a host of other talents playing on NCCA teams past and present.
Coaches from around the nation recruit players, both boys and girls from the program, which is coached by Irvin’s brothers Mike and Mac, and sister-in-law Corry. His youngest brother Nick is the head coach at Morgan Park High School where he, along with his brothers has won four state titles.
“Throughout their careers, both coaches have demonstrated a commitment to inspiring their teams to achieve excellence on and off the court, making them the ideal additions to the CSU family as we commit to strengthening the school’s athletic and academic programs,” said Zorich in a prepared statement.
Both coaches were presented to the media during an afternoon press conference at the Emil and Patricia Jones Convocation Center on the CSU campus August 8. Irvin, wearing a black suit with a green and white tie (CSU’s colors), strolled to the microphone in front of media, family and friends and said his selection as coach was a dream come true.
“My father passed away a few years ago,” said Irvin, choking back tears. “My father had goals for us and he pushed me to be the best person that I could be. I remember a family trip when we were little. He got us all dressed up and told us he was going to take us to a game. We got all dressed up and were excited and I didn’t know where we were going when we hit 95th street. Turns out he brought us here to a Chicago State game when they were playing Central State of Ohio. My father was smart, he was bringing me to a place where I can now say I got my first head coaching job.”
Irvin said one of the reasons he picked CSU is because he believes it is a potential gold mine. Irvin said he has spoken to many former CSU students in the community and he has yet to meet one who said they did not get a good education or the professors at CSU were bad. His message for the CSU students, faculty, alumni and community was simple:
“A change is coming. Just like the Sam Cooke song. A change is coming.”