August 3, 2012

‘This is our program’

— Tony Ingle said his goal was to avoid crying.

Tears built up in the Dalton native’s eyes intermittently and he came close, but overall he held his composure and showed his happiness through his words, not his emotions.

Dalton State College is happy to have him, too.

The Roadrunners shone a light on themselves and their new men’s basketball head coach during Thursday’s press conference inside the James Brown Center on DSC’s campus. When Ingle, who played for two years at then-Dalton Junior College in the 1970s, entered the room with athletic director Derek Waugh, a cheer could be heard. Waugh and DSC President John Schwenn spoke to the crowd first. Ingle followed with laughter-inducing stories about his past and the importance of athletics returning to DSC.

He started off with a simple goal for his 30-minute speech.

“If I can get through this without crying, then I did good,” he said, and followed with “thank yous” to Schwenn for bringing back athletics to the school, which almost brought tears. “I know what this institution has done for me and what it has done for others. I’m not what I should be, nor what I could be, but I thank God I’m not what I used to be.”

Ingle, 60, spun tales about his time in Dalton and touched on his time growing up in the housing projects here.

“I still think my sister one time got out of bed and when her little foot hit the cold, concrete floor she screamed so loud they took a break over at the carpet mill,” Ingle said, which caused the crowd to laugh.

Ingle graduated from North Whitfield High School and played at Dalton Junior College from 1971-1973. He talked about playing high school ball and seeing his first college basketball game at Dalton Junior College before the men’s program shut down 34 years ago.

“There’s been a lot of little Tony Ingles that didn’t get opportunities, whether male or female in Dalton, Ga., because Dalton State College did not have athletics,” Ingle said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think when the Roadrunners hit the floor next year that Tony Ingle would be the coach of the Roadrunners.”

Waugh said he and Ingle were friends before the search started. When Waugh was a coach at Stetson University in Florida, he played Ingle and Kennesaw State in 2001. It was his first taste of Ingle’s style of coaching.

“Coach Ingle is an animated coach,” Waugh said. “He is fun to watch, and his teams are fun to watch. But I want to go a little bit deeper. As we started this search, he and I are friends and I’m also friends with a lot of other coaches who applied for this job, he never once when he expressed his interest tried to play the friendship card or the alumni card in this search.”

The other three finalists who visited the campus for in-person interviews were former University of Tennessee-Chattanooga head coach Henry Dickerson; former Georgia Southern University assistant coach Carl Nash; and former Winthrop University head coach Randy Peele.

Waugh found something that put Ingle above the others.

“If you read coach Ingle’s book and see from where he came, what he has overcome, what he has done with his life and the absolute love he has for his family, his wife, the players that have played for him, the city of Dalton, the county of Whitfield and everyone that has been involved with him, it is impossible not to want him to be a part of your organization,” Waugh said.

Many in attendance were happy with Waugh’s decision. Joe Campbell, a 1978 Northwest graduate, 1979-1980 Dalton Junior College student and current Dalton resident, played for coach Ingle with the Bruins’ junior varsity team.

“It couldn’t have went any other way,” Campbell said of Ingle’s hire. “The people that have played against and played with him will be rooting for him.”

Campbell said winning is important — in the long run.

“The excitement of having a college team in this town and a place for the local high school kids to stay home will make winning be secondary,” he said.

Daniel Griffin, a 1979 Northwest graduate, Adairsville High School teacher and current Dalton resident, echoed Campbell’s opinion.

“It was the only choice,” Griffin said. “Tony has experience and is a great salesman. To build and start the program, he was the most logical choice to get the community involved.”

Ingle sold his love for the area well enough to make an impression with Waugh.

“I asked each coaching candidate one question that I thought was the most important,” Waugh said. “I said, ‘Why do you want this job?’ Before they answered, I said, ‘Now take out the newness of it and the fact you can put your imprint on the program. Take out the fact that Dalton is a nice place to live and Atlanta is a nice place to recruit. Why do you want this job?’ And one man gave me the best answer, and it was Tony Ingle. The absolute love he has for this community, for this school, for this county, for this area, and the absolute passion he showed in answering that question then made my decision a lot easier.

“This man loves this place, and he will put all the blood, sweat and tears he can into not only making sure our basketball program is successful on the court, but that it helps in every way, shape and form to lift this entire community.”

Ingle has references from Florida head coach Billy Donovan, former Kentucky coach Tubby Smith and former NBA coach Hubie Brown. His coaching résume includes an NCAA Division II National Championship at Kennesaw State in 2004. He was the Southeast Whitfield High School head coach from 1977 to 1978 and a Brigham Young University assistant coach in the 1990s, including a stint as interim head coach in 1997. He has been head coach at the University of Alabama-Huntsville, Gordon Junior College and Cherokee High School.

A great work ethic is one of the things Ingle promises to Roadrunners fans and the students. He used one of his many analogies to show such, going back to his playing days.

“I wasn’t a very good basketball player, but I don’t think anyone played harder,” Ingle said.

Another is group ownership of the team between the school and area.

“This is not my program. This is not your program,” Ingle said. “This is our program, and I’m glad to be a part of it.”

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