Corry Irvin loved the program she built at Whitney Young High School, turning the Dolphins into one of the best girls basketball programs in Illinois over 18 seasons.
However, Irvin felt that pull from the next level. She wanted to coach collegiately.
She got her chance.
St. Xavier University (SXU) named Irvin as its women’s basketball coach on May 29. She replaces Bob Hallberg, the legendary coach who started the SXU women’s program in 2000.
“I’ve wanted to go back to college, but I didn’t want to leave the Chicago area,” Irvin said. “I have a lot of ties here and just enjoy women’s basketball in Chicago. SXU was appealing. There is a great history here.”
In 18 seasons at SXU, Hallberg accumulated a 481-122 record. He stepped down as the women’s basketball coach and SXU athletic director following the 2018-19 academic year due to health reasons.
Looking to take the program to another level, notably a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) national championship, Irvin wants to build off the foundation that Hallberg created.
“Coach Hallberg has done an excellent job building the program up,” Irvin said. “It’s one of the best NAIA schools in the country. As a coach, I can only be me, and I hope I do as great a job as he did.”
Irvin’s basketball resume speaks for itself.
An Elgin native, she played at Larkin High School and then collegiately at Fresno State University.
She was an assistant coach at DePaul University before heading to Whitney Young. In 18 seasons with the Dolphins, Irvin posted a dominant 449-77 record and won state titles in 2008, 2012 and 2014.
Irvin hit the recruiting circuit hard this summer.
“Recruiting is the biggest step [as a coach],” Irvin said. “You sell them on the tradition. We have a tradition of winning, but with these next couple classes and me coaching, it’s a different opportunity to build on the legacy.”
SXU finished 21-10 last season.
The Cougars return two of their top three scorers from the 2018-19 squad, including seniors Chanel Fanter (18.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 2.7 blocks, 44 3-pointers) and Maddie Welter (14.4 points, 109 3-pointers).
Fanter was named to the NAIA Division-II Women’s Basketball All-American Team as an honorable mention.
“Chanel and Maddie both have a lot of experience,” Irvin said. “Watching them in summer league and film from last year, they have a ton of leadership. A lot of the girls naturally look up to them, which is good to see.”
With so much experience and firepower returning, Irvin wants the Cougars to get out and run, pressuring opponents both offensively and defensively.
“With the team we have coming back, we definitely want to be just as up-tempo,” Irvin said. “Pressure defense in different ways, full-court but mostly half-court. When you’re able to get up and down, you have a chance to win at every level.”
Corry and her husband, Mac, have three children and live in Morgan Park.
“I’m a family-first person. My family is always around,” Irvin said. “That’s important, especially with recruits. A girl can come to SXU, and they’ll be around family. That’s important to me and will continue to be for the program.”