By Devin Golden
When Thursday’s news conference was over, it marked the end of the beginning.
Now it’s time for Dalton State College’s men’s basketball program to move past “who” and focus on “what’s next.”
The hiring of Tony Ingle marked the biggest moment in the Roadrunners’ return to intercollegiate sports since athletic director Derek Waugh was hired in February.
However, some questions still remain. Dalton State plans to compete in the NAIA starting with the 2013-2014 school year, and men’s basketball will be a banner program for the four-year institution.
There are many steps ahead, though, said Ingle, a Dalton native who played at the school during its first era of men’s basketball (1968-78), when it was known as Dalton Junior College.
“It’s like building a house,” Ingle said. “I don’t have an office. I have to get an office. One step at a time. Recruiting is big, scheduling is big, equipment, buses, travel.”
Ingle, 60, is the only name on Dalton State’s roster right now, and the new coach must fill all the spots in the next year.
He has a long history of coaching, including a 2004 NCAA Division II national title at Kennesaw State University. He is the only coach in Georgia basketball history to win an NCAA national championship, has been to eight NCAA tournaments and is the only person to ever coach basketball at the high school, junior college, NAIA, Division II and Division I levels in the same state.
With the groundwork already in place, and his past experience to count on, Ingle is confident about recruiting.
“The local kids already know (we’re back),” he said. “I’ve been recruiting for 25-30 years. ... We’re going to be fine.”
But while Ingle said his coaching heart is in the Dalton area, he won’t limit his recruiting with geography. He said he wants good character, good academics and good basketball skills from his players — and it does not matter to him whether those traits come from Northwest Georgia or somewhere else.
“You’ve got to get the very best,” said Ingle, who noted in the news conference he wants to recruit “guys that are used to winning state championships.”
Ingle made a point to single out the school’s facilities. Being so close to I-75 should be an advantage, he said, but improvements must be made.
“I can tell you junior colleges that have better facilities,” he said. “Junior colleges and high schools, and people are driving by here and seeing the curb appeal of Dalton, Ga. They don’t see the real Dalton, Ga. There will be a day when they drive by and there will be lights on and games going on and things happening. The place will be packed with games, cheerleaders and everything.”
And there are other unknowns, too. Dalton State currently does not have a conference membership lined up in the NAIA, and may not for the 2013 season. Waugh said locking up some home games is one of his next top priorities.
“I know if you don’t have a pledge to get home games, everyone will want to get you on the road,” Waugh said. “That’s tough. So the first year our schedule might not be as balanced for home and away. Maybe eventually it will be, but we’ll definitely have home games and bring in some good opponents when we start things up.”
Another question is whether some assistant coaches will be hired, a matter that will depend on the department’s financial gains. Waugh, who was previously the head coach for men’s basketball at Division I Stetson, said earlier this year he would likely serve as an assistant for men’s basketball at least during the first season.
“One of the things I don’t know is our student fees,” Waugh said. “It’s definitely in the plans (to hire assistants). How soon is something I don’t know.”
Ingle is Dalton State basketball for now, but in Waugh, he has someone willing to help out.
“I even called him ‘Boss’ on the phone one day, and he said, ‘Don’t call me Boss. We’re in this together,’” Ingle said during the press conference.
“I loved that.”