Meet the Irvins, the South Side’s basketball dynasty

Irvin family
Photo at top: Mac and Corry pose with their children at the Whitney Young basketball court. (Aishwarya Kumar Lakshminarayanapuram/MEDILL)

By Aishwarya Kumar Lakshminarayanapuram

Mac Irvin elbowed his older brother, Nick Irvin, so he could dunk the basketball on the makeshift backyard court of his South Side house.

He smirked at him and pointed to his T-shirt, which read “Mac Irvin Fire,” the name of his late father’s Nike-sponsored AAU team.

Competition runs deep in the Irvin family, which produced five of the top basketball coaches in Illinois.

The late McGlother “Mac” Irvin and his wife, a softball coach for a public school, raised four sons and a daughter: former Portland Trial Blazers shooting guard, Byron; former Fresno State point guard Nick; the coach of Mac Irvin Fire, Mac; assistant coach of Southern Illinois University, Lance; and former high school point guard, Cynthia.

“Coaching is the Irvin family’s calling,” said Danielle Williams, a former Whitney Young point guard.

When Corry Carter, the Whitney Young girls’ basketball coach, married Mac and became Corry Irvin, she knew she needed to carry on her new clan’s tradition.

“My father laid a legacy for us, and we are just trying to follow his lead and trying to do what he did,” said Nick Irvin, the head coach of Morgan Park boys’ basketball team and Mac Irvin’s youngest son. “And that has helped kids get into college and help fulfill their dream.”

Deryl “D” Carter, Corry Irvin’s father and former coach of the North Central College men’s basketball team, and her brother Deryn Carter, head coach of Larkin High School’s head basketball coach, FaceTime with Corry after games and practices and discuss team strategy.

What makes them tick?

Their brutal honesty.

Every day, Corry requires her players to lift weights for half an hour and to run three miles. Mac frequently tells her she is soft on them. He makes his athletes log eight miles. Her response (with an eye roll): “We’re doing just fine, Mac.”

The husband and wife team up. Mac teaches offense, and Corry teaches defense.

Corry, a point guard, handles “positioning and basketball IQ,” and Mac, a forward, takes on “footwork,” said Campbell.

The Irvins always required their players to dress well, earn good grades, speak politely – and play good basketball, said Campbell. “It was about working on converting your 3.5 GPA to a 4.0 GPA.”

Their relationship with the Whitney Young Dolphins runs deeper than on the court. The Irvins take their players on vacations to Hawaii and Puerto Rico, where they relax, recuperate and think about their season ahead.

A few years ago they brought former point guard Linnae Harper with them to Hawaii, where they played laser tag, took motorboat rides and water skied. “We had a ball,” said Mac.

Corry and Mac pose with their kids during one of their outings. (Mac Irvin)
Corry and Mac pose with their kids during one of their outings. (Mac Irvin)

Every Christmas, Mac and Corry invite the team and the rest of the Irvin family to their three-bedroom house, filled with their three young sons’ toy trucks, cars and bicycles. They eat mashed potatoes, salad, roasted pork and apple pie, and then share joke presents (like a can opener) bought from the Dollar Store.

“We also always go to [Corry and Mac’s sons’] birthday parties,” said junior center Sloane Kistinger. “Coach always says that every year she has 12 to 15 daughters.”

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Mac and Corry’s children play next to the Whitney Young basketball court as Mac practices with the team. (Aishwarya Kumar Lakshminarayanapuram/MEDILL)

Competition and Irvin go hand in hand. From playing shoot outs with each other to yelling instructions to the players from the sidelines, the family always wants to win – a quality that senior point guard Kiara Lewis calls “infectious.”

During intense backyard and gym shootouts, players and family members shout curse words (“heck” and beyond). They tease each other that they are the better shooters, but they are evenly matched.

“I remember when I was going to Cincinnati when I was in sixth grade, Mac took me in the backyard and said, ‘If you’re going to stop embarrassing me, you’re going to work on this left hand,’” Nick said. “He kept me there for hours helping me learn how to shoot with my left hand.”

Mac holds his kin and his team to the same high standards.

“Mac is very competitive and has to win,” said Gary Lewis, senior point guard Kiara Lewis’s father and Lady Hurricane’s coach. “There is no exception to this rule, and the players have to be the best at what they do.”

They help each other, with Nick encouraging his stars to visit Corry’s team and vice versa, said Deryn.

They say they never feel envious of one another’s accomplishments.

“We want each other to succeed in our coaching jobs,” said Deryl Carter. “So there is always a positive energy in the group.”

The death of Nick and Mac’s father brought them closer, said Deryn Carter. “We realize when things are not under our control, and that mellowed us down.”

During family outings, they talk about “politics, changing diapers and voting” – but not basketball, said Deryn Carter.

“We love working with each other,” said Deryn’s father, Deryl Carter. “We want to see collective success, and that is why even our arguments end up being a calm and composed discussion.”

Mac and Corry pose with their children at the Whitney Young basketball court. (Aishwarya Kumar Lakshminarayanapuram/MEDILL)