From Everett Case to Mike Krzyzewski, North Carolina has had many legendary college basketball coaches, perhaps more than any other state in the country.
One of the best in his time isn’t talked about often these days, but he should be. His name is Cal Irvin.
Irvin played football and basketball at Morgan State alongside another legendary HBCU coach in Clarence “Big House” Gaines during the 1940s, where he was an All-CIAA running back. He coached briefly at Winston-Salem’s Atkins High School as well as Johnson C. Smith before taking over at North Carolina A&T.
When he arrived at A&T, basketball was an afterthought. The school had not won a CIAA Championship since 1937 and had never won the CIAA Tournament. By the time the school left the conference to help form the MEAC the team had won five tournament titles and finished third in the NAIA Tournament twice. He also led A&T to the MEAC title in 1972 before retiring.
The New Jersey native had a knack for finding talented players in the Northeast and bringing them south, including two of his best players, Al Attles and Joe Howell. Irvin, the brother of Baseball Hall of Famer Monte, finished his career with a remarkable 401-132 record during his coaching career.