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Catching Up with Mark Aguirre

Sporting a black Cubs hat near the tunnel at Allstate Arena, Mark Aguirre showcased a sizable grin.

The 6-foot-6, DePaul legend wasn’t thrilled with the fact that his alma mater faced a hefty deficit to the defending national champion Villanova Wildcats.

Instead, Aguirre appeared satisfied with his decision to somewhat separate himself from the game he once flourished within.

In his three seasons at DePaul (1978-1981), the Chicago native averaged 24.5 points and 7.9 rebounds per game, along with winning the Naismith Player of the Year award in 1980. During his freshman year, Aguirre helped carry the Blue Demons all the way to the Final Four, eventually losing to Larry Bird and the Indiana State Sycamores. He then went onto spend 14 campaigns in the NBA, in which he suited up for the Dallas Mavericks, Detroit Pistons and Los Angeles Clippers.

Recently, Aguirre tailored his daily routine, shifting his career path to the aerospace industry. He’s now working in the maintenance, repair and overhaul departments for all major airlines, such as United, Delta and American Airlines. He says a friend first introduced him to the business, and he found it intriguing.

In August, Aguirre was named President of the new Champions Basketball League.  The CBL is a new competitive basketball league which will begin operation in 16 U.S. cities (including Chicago) beginning in the summer of 2017.  The league plans to feature former NBA players.

Aguirre also volunteers at local Chicago high schools.  

“I get to be around it (basketball) with high school kids (around Chicago), but it’s in its place now,” Aguirre said.

As a teenager, Aguirre attended George Westinghouse College Prep, a high school located on the West Side of Chicago. Whether he’s visiting Morgan Park High School or elsewhere, he says preaching basketball fundamentals in the area is still important to him.

“It’s (high school basketball in Chicago) a part of my DNA,” he said.

Nevertheless, Aguirre has been surprised by the lack of Chicagoland talent on the Lincoln Park campus over the years. Seeing high school players from around the country attend programs nearby their respective homes, such as UCLA, he says he expected more of the same at DePaul.

On the Blue Demons’ current active roster, just guards Billy Garrett Jr. (Morgan Park) and Devin Gage (Curie) attended high schools in the Chicago Public League.

Additionally, since earning a spot in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) in 2007, the Blue Demons have collected a 99-211 record under coaches Jerry Wainwright, Oliver Purnell and Dave Leitao. They’ve yet to finish higher than seventh in the conference following the Big East’s realignment in the 2013-14 campaign.

“It’s (DePaul’s demise) something I never thought would happen,” Mark said.

Even though Aguirre would like to be of assistance for the school he used to played for, he understands that recruits need to make their own decisions without his input.

“I just don’t want a kid to say, ‘You told me to go there, and something went wrong,’” Aguirre said.

In order for DePaul to return to prominence, he says it must reel in the city’s top high school players.  

If Wintrust Arena is a step towards that direction, the Blue Demons could be headed on a different path in the near future, just like Aguirre.

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