By Patrice Nkrumah, Chicago Crusader
With another girl’s and boy’s high school basketball season in the books, the Chicago Public League continues its tradition of winning state titles.
This season, CPL teams won three of the available eight class titles and finished second in another. Leading the charge were Morgan Park and Orr, both of whom won back to back titles in Boys’ 3A and 2A, respectively. Then there is the timeless Dorothy Gaters. The basketball coach with the most wins in Illinois history added to her legacy with the Girls’ 2A title.
For Morgan Park Coach Nick Irvin, his team’s 71-56 victory over Springfield Southeast in the championship last month in Peoria, means the Mustangs now have four state titles and one city title during Irvin’s tenure.
The youngest of high school prep basketball legend Mac Irvin Jr’s children, Nick’s charismatic coaching style has made him a favorite of the media and has drawn him plenty of haters as well. But for Irvin, the bottom line for him is helping the kids.
“Me and my staff, we do this for these kids,” he began. “Kids today have a lot to deal with. We give them a positive outlet to teach life lessons. But we also play some great basketball if I must say so myself. I’ve been blessed here at Morgan Park with a great coaching staff and some incredibly talented players who want to win.”
The same can be said over on the West Side where Orr Coach Louis Adams’ team capped off a 30-4 season with a championship win over Winnebago. For Adams it was title number two after he contemplated retiring three years ago.
His players joke how he is always talking about hanging it up, but each year he shows up in the gym. That’s a good thing for Orr as Adams is one of several CPL coaches who is providing a pipeline to college for many of his athletes.
“I would say it’s not so much about getting a kid a scholarship. I coach just as Ty Slaughter, Nick Irvin, Mike Oliver and others do, so we can help these kids,” Adams said.
Adams has dealt with his share of tragedy during his coaching career. He’s had star players get shot after getting caught up in Chicago’s violent streets, he’s had players flunk off his team and he’s had some players end up in jail during the season. It’s a tough row to hoe, but Adams believes if he doesn’t do it, there are few willing to take on the charge.
“There are times at night during the season when I’m worrying about if my players got home safe after practice, instead of worrying about my opponent’s game plan the next day,” Adams said. “That’s what it means to be a coach nowadays. It’s more than Xs and Os.”
But Adams’ teams the past two years have been at the top of 2A after dropping from 3A. He’s not sure where his team will land next year as the IHSA constantly changes classes for schools after they become successful, to try and maintain a competitive balance. However, Adams believes it won’t be a problem for his program because they are constantly playing against 3A and 4A teams during the regular season and at tournaments.
The same can be said for Gaters, whose 2018 Lady Commandos gave their coach state title number nine! It was Gaters’ first title since 2008. She won her first IHSA title in 1982. With a career spanning 40 years in high school basketball, people are constantly asking her when she’s going to retire. She is always coy in her response and this year is no different. Inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2000, Gaters is showing no signs of slowing down, as she was recently featured in an ad for Nike.
“I think if you consider a person equal to you, then you will treat them with a certain amount of respect and dignity,” she said.