Move to Saint Xavier has been successful one for Larkin grad Irvin

  • Larkin High School graduate Corry Irvin talks to her Saint Xavier women's basketball team. In her first season at the helm, the Cougars went 29-4 and advanced to the NAIA National Tournament, where their season ended up being canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Larkin High School graduate Corry Irvin talks to her Saint Xavier women's basketball team. In her first season at the helm, the Cougars went 29-4 and advanced to the NAIA National Tournament, where their season ended up being canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo courtesy of Saint Xavier University

 
 
Updated 4/4/2020 11:18 AM

Change can be good sometimes, and unsettling at others.

Just ask Corry Irvin.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Irvin, nee Carter, established herself as one of the top high school girls basketball coaches in Illinois during her 18-year run as the head coach at Whitney Young.

A Larkin High School and Fresno State University product had a record of 449-77 at Young. Her teams brought home state tournament trophies nine times, including championships in 2008, 2012 and 2014.

So why leave such a lucrative and successful gig?

Well, sometimes change is not only be good, but needed.

Irvin wasn't unhappy at Young, but as the mother of three sons aged 7, 8 and 11, the non-coaching duties she had at Young started to take their toll on the Elgin native.

"I didn't really have a reason to leave Whitney Young and I enjoyed coaching at the high school level. But my job-job got more demanding. It was really draining and stressful," said Irvin, who was a special education administrator at the magnet school located just south and east of the United Center.

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"It became very time-consuming and more than what I wanted."

Even though Irvin had coached high school basketball for 18 years, her coaching resume included a two-year stint as an assistant to Doug Bruno at DePaul. So, as she looked into a possible change, coaching in college again became her focus.

"I was looking at some Division-I assistant jobs out of state but I was nervous about making a big move with my kids ... and my parents," said Irivn, the daughter of Deryl and Marlene Carter, who still live in Elgin.

"There were a lot of factors to consider."

Irivn knew the job at Saint Xavier University on Chicago's south side was open, but she said she thought the replacement for longtime coach Bob Hallberg, who retired after the 2018-19 season and passed away from liver cancer in November, had already been selected.

Not so.

"Saint Xavier called, I was definitely interested and when I got the job I was really happy because it meant there wouldn't be a lot of change for the kids," said Irvin, who is married to highly successful AAU coach Mac Irvin.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"It was a tough decision (to leave Young)," continued Corry, whose brother Deryn is the head boys basketball coach at Larkin and whose sister Katy once led DePaul to the College Women's World Series in softball.

"But I had contemplated going back to college coaching for a few years."

Irivn inherited a team at Saint Xavier that had won 21 games in 2018-19 and had been to the NAIA Division II national championship game in 2017. Her Cougars' roster was sprinkled with suburban talent, including senior guard Maddie Welter of Buffalo Grove, who as the 2019-20 season went on was approaching the school's all-time 3-point record. Welter's next 3, which would have been the 485th of her college career, would break the record.

Would have been, that is.

Under the leadership of Irvin and a senior group that included Welter, Janie McCloughan of Geneva and Chanel Fanter of Crystal Lake South, the Cougars put together a 29-4 season, going 16-0 in the CCAC, and advanced to the NAIA national tournament in Sioux City, Iowa, where they were set to play Avila University of Kansas City in the first round on March 12, one of the first days life as we know it began to change due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Cougars were on the floor in Sioux City, Irvin and her coaches were in the tunnel. And then the news came -- the NAIA was canceling the remainder of the tournament.

"The kids were on the court and we thought we were going to play," Irvin recalled. "Then the (NAIA) commissioner said we weren't playing.

"I didn't even know what to say. I had four seniors. Maddie was one 3-pointer from the record. It was definitely a hard conversation."

And one of the toughest talks the vibrant Irvin has ever had with a team she's coached.

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