Muskegon Heights native earns first win as Division I basketball coach

Lamar Chapman won plenty of games in two seasons as head basketball coach at his Muskegon Heights High School alma mater.

Now, he’s got the first victory as a Division I head coach under his belt.

Chapman, who on Jan. 3 was named interim head coach at Northern Illinois after the firing of Mark Montgomery, guided the Huskies to a 67-65 buzzer-beating win over visiting Akron Tuesday. Darius Beane’s pull-up jumper with 1 second left lifted his team to the Mid-American Conference win at NIU Convocation Center.

“I thought our guys played great,” Chapman said in a story on the NIU athletics website. “We were locked in from start to finish, we got good contributions from a little bit of everybody.

“Our starters stepped up, Trendon (Hankerson) was great on defense, our bigs did a great job of helping on ball screens and the overall effort of our guys, our energy, our togetherness and our toughness showed today in a hard-fought win against a good Akron team.”

In Chapman’s first two games as interim head coach, Northern Illinois lost road MAC contests at Ohio (76-73) and Miami-Ohio (70-58).

NIU is 2-9 overall and 1-5 in the MAC. The Huskies hit the road again this weekend with a game at Ball State (1 p.m., ESPN+).

Northern Illinois assistant basketball coach Lamar Chapman talks to an official during a game with the Huskies. Chapman, a 1988 Muskegon Heights High School alumnus, was announced as NIU’s interim head coach on Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, after the school fired Mark Montgomery. (Courtesy of NIU Athletic Communications)

Chapman is in his fourth season with the NIU program. He came to DeKalb, Ill., after nine seasons as an assistant at Stony Brook under Steve Pikiell and Jeff Boals.

Chapman’s coaching career began with a highly successful two-year stint at Muskegon Heights, where he led the Tigers to a 42-9 record with Class C state semifinals and Class B state finals appearances, respectively.

Affectionately nicknamed “Bird” or “Byrd,” Chapman guided Heights to a 21-5 record in 2001-02 and earned the Muskegon Chronicle all-area coach of the year honor. In 2002-03, the Tigers were 21-4 under Chapman and repeated as district and regional champions.

Chapman made the jump to the college game, spending three seasons at CMU before he went to Toledo for two seasons. In his first season with the Rockets, he helped them win their first MAC regular-season title in 26 years.

At Stony Brook, Chapman helped the Seawolves to four regular-season conference titles, one America East Tournament championship and seven postseason appearances, including the school’s first NCAA Tournament bid in 2016, when Muskegon alumnus and Mr. Basketball winner DeShaun Thrower was a freshman guard. During Chapman’s nine years at Stony Brook, the Seawolves had six 22-plus win seasons.

Chapman played college basketball at Lane College in Jackson, Tenn. He was named the school’s Athlete of the Year in 1991 and 1992.

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