Chicago mourns passing of Mac Irvin

Legendary Chicago basketball figure McGlother "Mac" Irvin died Saturday.

The 74-year-old Irvin's cause of death was unknown. He was diabetic and had been rehabbing at the Rehabilitation Institute in Chicago since having his knee amputated in July due to complications with the disease.

Irvin was known as the "Godfather" throughout the Chicago basketball community. He ran the Mac Irvin Fire, a Nike-sponsored team, which has consistently been one of the nation's premier club programs. He was among the first coaches to take Chicago players around the country to compete and had been involved with the club scene since 1992. He also created the Mac Irvin Foundation which assists at-risk youth and was widely regarded for his generosity to all children.

His passing was a shock to the Chicago basketball community.

"It just saddens me to hear about Mac passing away," said Larry Butler, who coached with Irvin in the early 1990s and later feuded with him over rival club teams. "We had our deal with one another, but I had a lot of respect for him. I will always cherish the experiences we had together in the early years.

"He was always about kids. He was always about young people. ‘Got to take care of the kids.' I can still hear him saying that."

Sonny Parker, who had starred in Chicago before playing in the NBA, had known Irvin most of his life. Parker played for Irvin when he was in high school, and later his sons played for him. His youngest son, Jabari, who is the nation's top junior, is currently a member of the Mac Irvin Fire.

"He's been such a part of my family and me a part of his family," Parker said of Irvin. "He was a big influence in our community. He was very uplifting. He had a lot of knowledge, a lot of wisdom. He would tell me some of things when I was playing, and I would say, ‘Wow, Mr. Irvin.' I always called him Mr. Irvin.

"He won't be replaced because no one can replace him. The thing he started, though, we can continue it on with his legacy."

Reggie Rose, who is Derrick Rose's older brother and runs the D-Rose All-Stars club team, said he and his family were also affected by Irvin's passing.

"Our family gives our condolences," Reggie Rose said. "Mr. Irvin was a pioneer when it came to Chicago basketball."

Former NBA all-star Antoine Walker is among Irvin's famous alumni. To Walker, Irvin was much more than a coach.

"For me, it's a little different," Walker said. "I've been around him since I was 8, 9 years old. He played different roles. He was a father figure. He was someone who taught basketball at a different level. He pushed me to be the best I could be as a basketball player. He gave me great advice on becoming a good basketball player. He was also a huge fan of mine and very supportive throughout my career."

DePaul assistant coach Billy Garrett was also among the people Irvin had a special relationship with. Garrett assisted Irvin for seven years before becoming a college coach. Garrett's son, Billy Jr., now plays for the Mac Irvin Fire.

"He took me in for no reason," Garrett said. "He helped mold me as a man.He made me credible in the basketball world. Because of my relationship with him, people showed me respect. He was like a surrogate father. God puts people in your life for a reason."

Illinois coach Bruce Weber got to know Irvin while recruiting his players. A number of Weber's current players, including Meyers Leonard, Mike Shaw and Myke Henry, played for the Mac Irvin Fire.

"Sad day for Chicago basketball," Weber said. "Mac was a special man who gave many opportunities to kids to have a chance to be a success through basketball."

In recent years, Irvin had relinquished his club program to his children. He has five sons -- Byron, Lance, McGlother Jr., Mike and Nick -- and one daughter -- Cynthia. Bryon is an NBA agent. Lance is a basketball coach and was most recently an assistant at Southern Illinois University. Mike runs the Mac Irvin Fire program. Nick is Morgan Park's varsity boys basketball coach. McGlother Jr. runs the Mac Irvin Lady Fire, a girls club team. Cynthia works for the Chicago Board of Education.

The Irvin family released a statement on Saturday evening.

"Today we lost a father, brother, husband and friend to many throughout the world," the statement read. "At this difficult time we are comforted by the outpouring of support shown to our family over the last few months during Mac's illness. We know many others are in mourning as we are with today's surprising news. We look forward to responding to each act of kindness shown to us in the near future. Your gestures of kindness are appreciated.

"The Irvin family is committed to continuing the legacy of Mac Irvin through his foundation, but more importantly, by following the example he left for us through his life's work."