published Friday, August 3rd, 2012

Tony Ingle back home to coach at old school

Coach Tony Ingle  in action. Tony Ingle in previous coaching position at Kennesaw State.
Coach Tony Ingle in action. Tony Ingle in previous coaching position at Kennesaw State.

DALTON, Ga. — Melvyn Ottinger was doubly happy Thursday morning. The campus where he worked for so long officially had a new basketball coach, and his successor — after a 34-year gap without a program — was one of his former players.

Dalton native Tony Ingle was introduced as the first intercollegiate coach for Dalton State College, which was Dalton Junior College when he was part of the Roadrunners' fast-paced winning tradition under Ottinger and assistant Dick Coleman.

Ingle's first team will take the floor for the 2013-14 season, women's basketball following a year later, according to athletic director Derek Waugh. A volleyball coach search likely will begin in September for a 2013 start.

Both Ottinger and Coleman were among those giving Ingle a standing ovation at Thursday's news conference on campus.

"You always want to see your guys do well," Ottinger said, "and to have only the second basketball coach here be one of ours — and to be local — words can't explain the feeling."

Ingle already was the only person who has been a basketball head coach in high school, junior college and NCAA Division II and Division I in Georgia, and now he has added the NAIA level to that distinction. He also is unique in having won an NCAA championship in the state, that coming with Kennesaw State in 2004, just before he guided the Owls' ascent to Division I.

Now 60, Ingle was 33 when he began a successful revival of another dormant program, Gordon College, where his son Israel now is coach and led the Barnesville, Ga., team to the junior college national tournament last year. The elder Ingle improved Alabama-Huntsville's team in one season before moving on to Division I as an assistant in seven seasons with five league titles and NCAA tournament appearances for Brigham Young.

When that run of excellence bogged down, Ingle's boss was fired and he became the interim head coach. Long a popular motivational speaker known for his humor, he was able to joke about his 0-19 record with the Cougars.

His quick improvement of a moribund Kennesaw State program, starting in 2000, was no joke, however. The Owls won 35 games in their national-title season.

Ottinger noted that Dalton's Roadrunners also won 35 in reaching the NJCAA nationals in Ingle's final year as a juco player. The retired coach said Dalton had a chance to win the championship until Ingle blew out a knee in the tournament at Hutchinson, Kan.

"Even then, he supposedly wouldn't be able to play again, but he went on and played at Huntingdon College," Ottinger said.

"We never played anybody who outhustled him," Ottinger added.

The self-deprecating Ingle said people probably wouldn't call him "intelligent" but he was certain no one would call him "lazy" or say he didn't have honesty, integrity and the best interests of his players and school at heart. After he was let go as KSU's basketball coach in March 2011, he continued working for the school in a fundraising role until June 30 of this year.

But working for no school excites him like rebuilding a team at his hometown school and alma mater, he said.

"All I've ever wanted to be was a coach, ... and I knew they weren't going to find a guy who would be more honored to have this job," Ingle said. "But we have a lot of work to do, not only in basketball but the whole athletic department."

Citing his own difficult childhood, which included poverty and having a series of facial surgeries, he said "a lot of little Tony Ingles — male and female — didn't get opportunities for a long time because Dalton State College didn't have [intercollegiate] athletics."

His life story motivated a book he co-authored, "I Don't Mind Hitting the Bottom, I Just Hate Dragging."

Waugh, who at Stetson coached against Ingle and in fact lost to the Owls in their inaugural D-I year with Ingle's son Golden matching his father's "histrionics" on the floor, said reading Ingle's book helped solidify his decision to make the former Roadrunner the new Roadrunners coach.

Ingle's "passion" was the other big factor, said Waugh, who fielded more than 60 inquiries about the position.

Dr. John Schwenn, the school president, noted that "there have been a lot of changes in the 34 years since basketball was on our campus." Besides the school now being a four-year institution, he said, it has 15 baccalaureate progams and enrollment that "has more than quadrupled" since 1978.

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