Former Larkin hoops star returns with a job to do

Corry Irvin is coming home. She’s got quite a task ahead of her.

The 1992 Larkin graduate, a star basketball player there and at Fresno State University before her championship-caliber coaching stints at Whitney Young High School and St. Xavier University, on April 10 was named head women’s coach at Chicago State University.

Last season the Panthers went 1-26, their sole win coming over Division II Kuyper College.

Naturally, Irvin said her first goal will be to build a winning culture, “changing the narrative.”

She said that before taking over at Whitney Young it had a losing record, too, though not to this extent. Irvin amassed a 449-77 record with the Dolphins and won three Class 4A championships with seven other top-four finishes.

Married to AAU coaching legend Mac Irvin, with whom she has three children, including Larkin sophomore Mac Irvin IV, Corry Irvin most recently was for two years an assistant coach at Mississippi State.

She helped assemble the nation’s 16th-best recruiting class despite arriving late in the recruiting season in 2022. It helped the Bulldogs in 2023 become the first women’s “First Four” team to reach the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Chicago State has no Illinois players on its roster. Irvin expects that to change.

A 2007 inductee into the Elgin Sports Hall of Fame, she graduated as the Larkin girls program leader in rebounds and blocked shots and second in scoring. She is the sister of another former Larkin star, current Royals boys coach Deryn Carter, a 2021 inductee into the Elgin Sports Hall.

Irvin said she was inspired to get into coaching at Larkin, where she learned the importance of team chemistry. She learned more about it over the years at places like DePaul University, where after college she assisted Doug Bruno.

“I think what I learned most is that most student-athletes in college are looking for the opportunity to develop as adults, in addition to being both students and athletes,” Irvin said.

“I think this is a great time in their life to figure out who they want to be and what path they want to go down, which is why I like this age level.”

Her parents, Deryl and Marlene Carter, remain in Elgin. Irvin said her own young family joined her during her first season at Mississippi State but returned to Elgin for her second.

Now they’ll be together full-time as she commutes to Chicago State and tries to turn things around.

“It’s very nice,” she said. “I’m glad to be back for numerous reasons — one to have my family together; and, two, I really love this community. And also the opportunity to build a program here.”

Cracks surface

Kaneland’s Peterson Prep Invitational boys track meet will be held for a 52nd time on Saturday.

But not at Kaneland. The 19-team boys meet will be at West Aurora because the track has been ruled unsafe by Kaneland athletic director David Rohlman, Principal James Horne and Knights track coaches. On a nice day in February a hurdler caught his spikes in a patched section of the track, fell and broke his hand.

Kaneland’s track, built in 1976, has not been resurfaced for 27 years, since 1997. Knights retired hall of fame coach Ralph Drendel said it should be done every 10 years. Drendel’s son, Andy, coaches the boys team.

Ralph Drendel said the Kaneland administration has requested track resurfacing from Kaneland Community Unit School District 302 each year since 2013; Rohlman said the reason for delay is economics.

“Right now it’s really disappointing as the former head track coach because it doesn’t seem like they value our aspect of the athletic program,” Drendel said. “Between the boys and girls we’ve won five state titles, we have 11 state trophies, we have over 200 all-state athletes and we have 35 state champions.”

Kaneland canceled the girls team’s Jill Holmes Invitational, whose 43rd running was scheduled for April 6.

Drendel doubts that any single lane hasn’t been patched somewhere over its 400-meter loop. Rohlman said cracks were filled early last fall and a textured surface smoothed on top of that, but that surface already has worn off.

The fear at this point is the problem goes deeper, and more expensive, than a resurfacing.

“We’ll have to also take it down, which means we’re talking about understructure as well,” Rohlman said. “While we’re doing all this as a district, we’re talking about whether we’ll put another referendum on the ballot.”

Voters in April 2023 denied a referendum seeking $58 million to redo the Knights’ entire outdoor athletic complex, Drendel said.

The hope is to turn the existing football stadium north and south and enlarge it to a “modern size,” Rohlman said, that could accommodate lacrosse and soccer. Though he said the grass field is in great shape, installing synthetic turf could increase use by groups such as marching band and physical education classes.

Drendel was pleased that $500,000 was targeted toward resurfacing a bus parking lot — also that the track at Harter Middle School, which was built in 2009, was resurfaced as recently as 2018.

District 302 Superintendent Todd Leden said the board will be briefed on the status of the track before its next meeting on April 29. A packet on the meeting’s agenda items will come out April 25, he said.

“There are capital projects that we have across the district, and challenges to meet the vast needs on a prioritization process year by year,” he said.

Drendel believes a 27-year lapse makes track resurfacing a priority.

“Say what you want, it’s a classroom for athletics,” Drendel said.

“We’ve got to let it play out and hopefully we can get something accomplished in the next couple of weeks.”

Cracks and patching on Lane 5 at Kaneland High School's outdoor track, which has been ruled unsafe and hasn't been resurfaced since 1997. Courtesy of Ralph Drendel
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