Irmo head coach Tim Whipple looks forward to exciting but challenging 43rd season

Posted 12/8/23

Legendary Irmo basketball coach Tim Whipple and his Yellow Jackets are fresh off a state championship and enter the new season with many questions surrounding the team. 

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Irmo head coach Tim Whipple looks forward to exciting but challenging 43rd season


Legendary Irmo basketball coach Tim Whipple and his Yellow Jackets are fresh off a state championship and enter the new season with many questions surrounding the team. 

“I’m looking forward to one of the most challenging years I’ve had in a long time,” Whipple said. “It’s going to be difficult, but I think it’s going to end up being very gratifying to watch this group this year.”

Irmo’s team looks very different from the group that won the state title last season. 

Graduations and transfers have forced the team to rely on some of its younger players. With a handful of the roster also part of the school’s football team, these players had to make major contributions early in the season. 

“We’re just trying to work with these young kids and prepare them for their season coming up,” Whipple said.  “We’ll just be able to use these three or four games to give them some confidence and put them in a situation where they’re going to be better.” 

The Yellow Jackets have struggled to start the season, going 1-4 through the team’s first five games, with losses to Cardinal Newman, Mauldin, River Bluff and Lexington. 

Irmo won its first game in lopsided fashion, defeating Spartanburg Christian Academy 80-22. The Yellow Jackets played this game without their football players but still managed to come away with the win after double-digit performances from Matthew Hopkins, Jaden Henderson and freshman Christian Brown. 

The team may be off to a sluggish start, but Whipple said after last season’s run, he learned not to underestimate his team’s capabilities. 

“If you would have said last year’s team was winning a state championship, I would say ‘no, that’s not going to happen,’  I put a ceiling on their ability to be able to compete,” Whipple said. “I have no expectations yet for them because we’ve got to step out on the floor, and I’ve got to see what everybody does, and I’m sure we’ll get better.”

Whipple is one of the most decorated head coaches in South Carolina history, ranking second all-time in wins, and has seen his share of rough seasons. He feels this team has what it takes to be competitive by the end of the campaign.

“All I know is if they’re anything like any group we’ve ever coached since I’ve been here, then by the end of the year, we’ll be playing our best basketball and we’ll be competitive,” Whipple said. “I guess that would be our goal right now, just to be competitive at the end of the season.”

After 43 years at Irmo, many wonder why Whipple would come back for a season where the team is not expected to achieve the same accomplishment. He said he doesn’t coach purely for success. 

“I’ve had many, many people say, ‘You should have just retired after winning a state championship,’ and, you know, it’s not about a state championship. It’s about that journey. It’s about watching these guys progress,” Whipple said. “That is what motivates me. It’s a challenge for me every single year to put those kids in a situation to be successful, and I  have a passion for coaching and trying to get those kids to be the best players they can be.”

Getting players to their maximum potential requires commitment from both the players and coaches, and that’s something Whipple said has been a constant at Irmo. 

Dedicated players, talented coaches and a supportive school staff have kept Whipple from departing for another job during his long career. He would rather work things out at Irmo than go to a potentially easier job.

“I think we live in a world, in a society now where it’s immediate gratification and the grass is always greener somewhere else type of situation,” Whipple said. “I’ve had tremendous coaches to work with. Our teachers and our staff don’t come any better, so they’re great to work with, and then I’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of really good, talented players that are motivated and have had a desire to be the best they can be,”

Many players have come and gone while Whipple has been at the helm. Each year, he looks forward to seeing what kind of players he has to work with. 

Monumental changes have occurred since his first season in charge. Irmo’s enrollment numbers have decreased, lessening the overall talent pool and the sport has evolved, making it increasingly difficult to stay relevant for so long. 

“I’ve found that is more satisfying and enjoyable, taking what you have, and then being able to find a way for those individuals and their talent levels to fit together to make a team and for that team to be better than its parts,” Whipple said. 

A prime example of this approach is last season’s Irmo team. That Yellow Jacket group went from being unranked in the preseason coaches poll to ruling the 4A classification. 

“Last year’s team, you may think we just had a ton of talent. It wasn’t that way,” Whipple said. “It was each player did what they had to do for us to be successful, and they all just gelled together as a unit and that whole was much better than the parts.”

This season’s Irmo squad will have to achieve this same level of cohesive play if it wants to be competitive at the end of the season. Whipple is excited to try and get them there. 

“This year is going to be a challenge as far as that’s concerned,” Whipple said. “We got a lot of very, very young guys, but I think that there’s a bright future for them.”


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