George Irvine, a Ballard High graduate who played basketball at the University of Washington from 1968-70 before embarking upon a long playing and coaching career in the ABA and NBA, died Tuesday at 69, according to the Indiana Pacers. Irvine had been battling cancer.
After an All-State career at Ballard, Irvine played three seasons for the Huskies under head coaches Mac Duckworth and Tex Winter. During his career, he scored 1,314 points, averaging 15, 15.6 and 20 points per game from his sophomore through senior seasons. He had a career-high 35 points against California Feb. 2, 1970 and a career-high 20 rebounds against Montana Jan. 31, 1969.
The 6-6 forward earned first-team All-Pac-8 honors in 1969-70 and served as Washington’s captain in his junior and senior years.
Irvine led the Huskies in field goal percentage all three years. When he graduated, he was the school’s all-time leader at 58.8 percent, which still ranks fourth on the list. He was inducted into the Pac-12 Hall of Honor in 2012.
Irvine was drafted by the Seattle SuperSonics (NBA) and Virginia Squires (American Basketball Association). Irvine signed with the Squires, for whom he played five years. He spent his last two ABA seasons with the Denver Nuggets, his career ending with a knee injury in 1977. Irvine averaged 9.5 points and 3.0 rebounds in his 325-game ABA career.
Starting in 1980, Irvine spent 25 years in the NBA as an assistant coach, head coach and vice president of basketball operations. Irvine started out as an assistant, pulling stints with the Indiana Pacers, Detroit Pistons and Golden State Warriors, before getting shots as a head coach for Indiana and Detroit.
Irvine coached the Pacers from 1984-89 and the Pistons from 1999-01. He posted a record of 100-190 as a head coach.
Following his coaching career, Irvine worked in the Pacers’ front office, helping assemble the club’s successful teams during the 1990s. The Pacers issued a statement:
“The Indiana Pacers family expresses great sorrow with the news of the passing of former coach George Irvine. George served as the Pacers’ head coach from 1984-86, was an interim head coach in 1988 and also an assistant coach from 1980-83, in 1991-92 and 1993-95. When not coaching, George assisted General Manager/President Donnie Walsh in the front office.”
Said Walsh: “George Irvine brought me to Indiana and in my mind he was the beginning of NBA basketball with the Pacers in our building process for the years to come. He had a great basketball mind, which allowed him to function at a high level as a coach, administrator and purveyor of talent. George was a once-in-a-lifetime friend and one of the best men in my life.”