Dalton native Tony Ingle, national championship basketball coach, dies of COVID-19

AP photo by Orlin Wagner / Tony Ingle coaches the Dalton State College men's basketball team during the NAIA Division I tournament title game against Westmont on March 24, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo.

ATLANTA - Tony Ingle, the Dalton, Georgia, native who coached two men's college basketball programs from his home state to national championships, has died at the age of 68.

One of his sons announced on Twitter that Ingle died Monday night of complications from COVID-19.

"It's with a shattered heart I post this," said Izzy Ingle, the head basketball coach at Timpanogos High School in Orem, Utah. "I'm so blessed to have had such an amazing father & example throughout my life!! I love you dad!! I already miss you!"

Ingle said his father was placed on a ventilator Jan. 8, having contracted the coronavirus in December.

Known for his sharp wit and self-deprecating style, Ingle was an assistant coach at BYU when head coach Roger Reid was fired after a 1-6 start to the 1996-97 season. Ingle was promoted to interim head coach, but the Cougars failed to win another game, going 0-19 the rest of the way.

Ingle spent two years as a scout with the NBA's Utah Jazz before getting back into coaching at Kennesaw State, the suburban Atlanta school that was an NCAA Division II program at the time. The Owls won the DII national title in 2004, finishing 34-4 and routing Southern Indiana 84-59 in the championship game.

"When he arrived, he said he was going to win a national championship for us in five years, and I'll be darned, he won it in four years," former Kennesaw State athletic director Dave Waples said. "That run was absolutely amazing. He was one of a kind. He was driven, a great person to be around and has a wonderful family. I can't stress enough how much we are going to miss him."

Kennesaw State struggled after making the move to Division I, and Ingle's 11-year tenure ended with his firing in 2011 after the Atlantic Sun's Owls went 8-23, a season that included an upset of Atlantic Coast Conference program Georgia Tech. University officials cited academic deficiencies in the program as the reason for Ingle's dismissal.

The following year, Ingles returned to Dalton State College, where he had played in the early 1970s when it was Dalton Junior College. The program's return to competition in 2013 under Ingle after a 35-year hiatus was the keystone of a revival of athletics for the school. The basketball Roadrunners went 26-4 in their first season back and won the NAIA Division I championship in 2015, their first year of eligibility for the title, to cap a 32-4 campaign.

A Times Free Press report from Ingle's introductory news conference as coach of the Roadrunners in August 2012 noted his enthusiasm for the opportunity to return home, both to his former school and the locale where he overcame a difficult childhood that included poverty and a series of facial surgeries. His life story motivated a book he co-authored, "I Don't Mind Hitting Bottom, I Just Hate Dragging."

"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 at the time, adding that "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."

Ingle retired in 2018 with a career record of 382-267.

"I never did coach basketball, I coached people," Ingle said while talking to children at a Boys & Girls Club gathering in his native Whitfield County in 2019. "I wanted to give back because so much was given to me. What you get is gone when you're gone, but what you give is your legacy and that lives on."

Ingle is survived by his wife Jeanne and five children, including Tony Jr., the girls' basketball coach at Kell High School in Marietta.