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Chicago State ends long search, hires Lance Irvin as head coach

The longtime Division I assistant comes with plenty of experience, and a well-known last name in Chicago.

NCAA Basketball: Chicago State at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Lance Irvin will be the next mens’ basketball coach at Chicago State, according to a release sent out by the school.

The hire ends a nearly five-month search, and fills the final Division I head coaching vacancy. Irvin will inherit a program that has gone 2-40 in WAC play and won just 13 games overall over the past three years.

He brings a lengthy Division I resume to the table. He began as an assistant on Jerry Merry’s staff at DePaul in 1992 before working in that same capacity at Loyola University Chicago, Iowa State, Illinois State, Texas A&M, Missouri, SMU and Southern Illinois. Most recently, he’d been serving as an assistant at Chicago’s Morgan Park High School for his brother Nick.

That hits at what may be Irvin’s biggest assets as he takes on the CSU rebuild: his family and his ties to Chicago. Local AAU powerhouse Mac Irvin Fire was run by his father — who was known as the “Godfather” of Chicago basketball — and is currently coached by his brother Nick. The program had players sign with Illinois, Iowa State, Missouri, Eastern Illinois and UAB over the past recruiting cycle, and currently features five-star wing Kahlil Whitney, among others.

Irvin can’t realistically recruit the top talent from the program, but he may be able to use his ties within the city to elevate the Cougars’ roster. For what it’s worth, the school’s release came with statements of support from Jabari Parker and Robert Smith, coach of Chicago prep giant Simeon (which produced Parker and Derrick Rose).

That profile, however, sounds a lot like Tracy Dildy, who was let go after in March after eight season on the South Side. The longtime assistant was well-respected within the city, but wasn’t able to build on an inaugural 8-8 WAC campaign in 2013-14. Dildy did have to deal with university budgetary concerns that seemingly threatened the athletic program, and served as its interim athletic director for two years. Whether those questions continue to linger will be an important part of Irvin’s tenure.

Irvin takes over a roster understandably in flux. It loses leading scorer Fred Sims Jr. (14.2 PPG), who opted to pursue to professional opportunities ahead of what would’ve been his senior year. It also loses four seniors that played heavy minutes in Glen Burns, Deionte Simmons, Jelani Pruitt and Montana Byrd.

As Irvin looks to fill out the roster late in the game, he does have building blocks in rising sophomores Travon Bell (5.0 PPG) and Cameron Bowles (4.7 PPG, 2.7 RPG), both of whom showed promise at times during a challenging year. Rising senior wing Anthony Harris (5.8 PPG, 2.6 RPG) is also still with the program, per Verbal Commits.