As the Le Mars Community men’s basketball team won its game 74-65 against Sioux City West on Friday, longtime head coach Dave Irwin reached 299 wins as Bulldogs coach. The victory propelled him ahead of Eugene Carey for most wins in program history. As the team’s coach since the start of the 2002-03 season, Irwin compiled a 299-160 record as of March and his teams have won at least 10 games each season. Many former players were at Friday’s game to celebrate the victory, which was also the 350th overall of his career as he made stops at Sioux City North and Cherokee before taking over coaching at the Mars. His current team, pictured above, pose for a photo with Irwin who received a banner and commemorative balloon marking the occasion.
LE MARS — In front of a home crowd with several former players in attendance, Dave Irwin became the all-time leader in Le Mars men’s basketball history on Friday night in a 74-65 win over Sioux City West.
Irwin said it was a humbling moment to reach the milestone of his 299th victory as the team’s head coach.
“Last Friday night when we beat West, it was probably the most humbling experience I’ve ever had,” Irwin said. “Just all the support from former players, the number of my players who came back to support me, it was overwhelming. It was definitely one of the sweetest moments of my career.
The win moved him out of a tie with Eugene Carey for the most wins in school history. Legendary coach Carey, after whom the school’s previous competitive gymnasium is named, coached 298-199 from 1926 to 1954. Irwin, who coached the Mars since the 2002-03 season, had a record 299-160 in his tenure through Friday’s game.
Of the 20 coaches in the program’s history since 1915, only Carey and Irwin have totaled more than 80 wins for the program. The pair are also tied in bringing home a second-place state finish, with Carey doing so in 1946 and Irwin in 2015.
Basketball has been running through Irwin’s veins since he was young. Growing up in Indiana, a state steeped in sports tradition, Dave grew up around the game with his father, Jim, who coached for nearly 40 years.
“That was kind of what I grew up knowing,” Irwin said. “I learned to count by going to my dad’s basketball games. Just the life experiences I’ve had, it’s the norm for me to be in the gym, to go to 50 practices a year and 20 games a year. That’s how I was brought up. »
Irwin eventually became a coach, joining his father and two brothers, but not without a slight detour. He attended Wayne State College where he played basketball, met his wife Susan, and earned a business degree.
After moving to Le Mars, his wife’s hometown, Dave began volunteering as a coach with Le Mars. This experience paved the way for what became a long and successful coaching career.
“I was a corporate major and worked in sales for Supersweet Feeds for two years, I decided that wasn’t necessarily my calling or what I wanted to do,” Irwin said. “When I first moved to town Barry Borchers was the head coach, Cliff Collins was his assistant coach. In the first two years I spent a lot of time following them, coming to practices, to go to all of their games and really get to know Le Mars basketball. That’s what really got me into coaching fever. That’s what I grew up knowing. I kind of got away with it. sort of distant for a few years and then Barry and Cliff allowed me to get involved in their program in the mid-90s which really got me thinking about making this career change and I went ahead and I did it.
Irwin returned to school at Westmar University du Mars where he served a year as a graduate assistant coach and then as a full-time assistant. As Westmar’s struggles led to its closure in 1997, Irwin rose to the high school coaching ranks, first as the girls’ coach at Sioux City North, then as the boys’ coach at Cherokee. before returning to the sidelines at Carey Gymnasium.
Teams from Irwin to Mars have always been competitive, winning at least 10 games each season. He credits this to the quality players he has been blessed with over the years.
“I was lucky to have good players,” Irwin said. “That equates to good teams and usually equates to a few wins. I was lucky. I was lucky to have the opportunity to be in the same place for 20 years and to have the opportunity to coach the types of players that I was able to coach.
Eight different players have earned all-state recognition, some for multiple years, while playing for Irwin. These include Craig Hector, Jared Clement, Austin Homan, Paxton Strub, Tyler Borchers, Tyler Paulson, Trent Hilbrands and his son, Alex Irwin.
Just as Dave’s father and brothers shared the game of basketball, Dave also shared the game with his sons. Alex and Jake played high school basketball for their dad while Nate was involved in a different way.
“I was lucky because it was just as important to them as it was to me,” Irwin said. “Sharing some of the experiences with my boys has been really rewarding. All of them have been involved in it on some level. It may not have been on the pitch, but I leaned on all of them.
Irwin said he had a lot to thank for helping him throughout his career.
“I would like to thank my friends, my family, the former players, the community, the administration, the people I work with for all the support they have given me over the years,” Irwin said. “It was really overwhelming on Friday to see the support system I have that has allowed me to do this for so many years. I am extremely grateful to everyone involved with Le Mars and the community and more importantly our basketball program.
One of the most special aspects of his job was the relationships he built along the way.
“The best part of coaching is having the opportunity to build relationships with the guys,” Irwin said. “Seeing guys come back and seeing them sitting in the stands and still feeling some of that makes me extremely proud of what myself and my coaches have been able to do with the program over the past 20 years.”
Some of his career highlights include Friday’s game, the 2015 State Tournament, and some rivalry games against Sioux City East, including winning 4 OT last season and Alec Dreckman’s game-high 51 points. against the Black Raiders two seasons ago. While some of those memories come out easily, Irwin said he has fond memories from each of the seasons he coached.
“Each team has something that I remember, something special that happened during that year,” Irwin said. “There are so many moments that it’s hard to tell which one was more memorable than another because I have them all in the memory bank and they have some level of importance to me at any given time. “
Irwin said he’s not looking too far into the future as he hopes to prepare this year’s team for a playoff run.
“Whatever the future holds, we’ll find out once it starts to unfold,” Irwin said. “As long as I have that competitive fire to keep coaching, I will. I make no promises to myself or anyone else about what tomorrow will bring. I’m just gonna do my best today. »