INDIANAPOLIS — George Irvine, who coached nearly 200 games for the Indiana Pacers in the 1980s before working in the front office, has died after battling cancer. He was 69.
The Pacers announced the death Tuesday after speaking with Irvine’s family. Irvine had been living near his hometown of Seattle, where he was a standout player for the University of Washington.
“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,” longtime Pacers executive Donnie Walsh said. “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.”
Irvine became Indiana’s head coach in 1984 after three seasons as an assistant with the team. He went 48-116 in two seasons and later returned as interim coach in 1988-89. Irvine got a second chance with Detroit in 1999-2000 and stuck around for one more season. He finished his head coaching career with a record of 100-190.
Walsh was on Irvine’s coaching staff before he was named Indiana’s general manager.
Irvine also served as an assistant with the Pacers, Pistons, Golden State, Denver and the Virginia Squires in the defunct ABA. Some dubbed him Magnum G.I. in part because of the thick moustache that reminded fans of Tom Selleck in the hit TV show “Magnum, P.I.” He worked in Indiana’s front office, with Walsh, during the 1990s.
He was drafted by his hometown Seattle Supersonics in the eighth round of the 1970 NBA draft but wound up playing all 325 games of his pro career in the ABA.
Irvine played five seasons with the Squires, who also drafted him, and three games with Denver in his final season. Irvine averaged 9.5 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.3 assists before suffering a career-ending knee injury.
Before embarking on his coaching career, Irvine led the collegiate Huskies in scoring three times and rebounding twice. He finished his college career with 1,314 points and as the Huskies’ career leader in field goal percentage (58.8), a record that stood until 1987.