For the first time in a very long time, there is buzz around Western Illinois men’s basketball. After a 2-14 season in 2019, Western and head coach Billy Wright mutually agreed to part ways. On March 30, 2020 it was announced that Rob Jeter would take over as the next head coach of Western Illinois men’s basketball.
Along with Jeter is Assistant Coach Nick Irvin. Before coming to Western, Irvin was the head coach at Morgan Park, one of the most successful mens’ basketball programs in Illinois. He coached at Morgan Park for 12 years where he accumulated a record of 301-70. He led Morgan Park to four state titles. Both title runs were back to back years, from 2013-2014 and 2017-2018. Irvin had coached five players at Morgan Park who are currently playing Division I basketball, three of those players are on this season’s roster. When asked about being able to reconnect with these players at the collegiate level, Irvin said, “I still have a great relationship with the families and felt this was a great opportunity to reconnect.”
One of the players that Irvin had coached is highly touted recruit Marcus Watson Jr. Watson, the highest rated recruit in Western Illinois mens’ basketball history, had spent the last four years at Morgan Park under the helm of Irvin. When asked what impact Irvin had on Watson in his decision to come to Western, Irvin said, “I had talked to Marcus about why you should pick that college, and the things to look for.” A big thing the two had talked about was to look for a head coach that will get the most out of you, and guide you in the right direction. They both felt that Jeter was a great fit, and that is why these two will have a big part if this team is to be successful this upcoming season.
With COVID-19 going on this season, it’s already different and is going to continue to be different. The Summit League has released the schedules and Western starts off the season against North Dakota. With a completely new squad, it has definitely been difficult for this team to have their typical practices that you have in the past. “We are just trying to find an identity, we want to play physical, and tough,” said Irvin. He reiterated that defense wins championships, and they feel that they have the guys who can compete on the defensive end and ultimately lead them to success.