By Devin Golden
— Editor’s note: This is the fourth of four features on the finalists for the men's head basketball position at Dalton State College.
One finalist already has a relationship with Dalton, and Tony Ingle believes that gives him a head start.
The Whitfield County native is one of the four finalists named Tuesday for the Dalton State College men’s basketball head coaching position. DSC Athletic Director Derek Waugh said on-campus interviews with the four started this week and will conclude early next week. In addition to Ingle, the finalists are former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga head coach Henry Dickerson; former Georgia Southern assistant coach Carl Nash; former Winthrop head coach Randy Peele.
Ingle, the former Kennesaw State University head coach believes his ties to the area — he grew up here, graduated from North Whitfield High and played for the Roadrunners basketball team when the school was Dalton Junior College — give him an advantage. Dalton residents and Roadrunners fans “need to be rallied.”
“I think we need to get everyone together and on the same page,” he said Wednesday in a phone interview. “I’ve seen it in the past, but I’m not here to talk about the past.”
Ingle’s track record includes an NCAA Division II National Championship at KSU in 2004. He was the Southeast Whitfield 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 University of Alabama-Huntsville, Gordon Junior College and Cherokee High. Ingle feels his coaching road fits in with building DSC hoops up to where it was 30 years ago before it was shut down.
“That’s all I’ve done my whole life,” he said. “I’ve always gone in with programs and they were either down or nonexistent except when I was an assistant with BYU.
“Yeah, you can question some of my decisions, but in my opinion, you can’t question my work ethic, enthusiasm and if I care.”
Some question marks stem from the end of his tenure at Kennesaw State.
After winning the national title, athletics made a jump to Division I with Ingle still on board as the men’s head coach. However, he was terminated at the end of the 2011 season after more than a decade leading the program due to the program’s academic issues, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. According to the newspaper, the NCAA penalized the program in 2010 with the loss of a scholarship “for failing to meet the minimum score in the Academic Progress Rate (APR)” one year after being penalized and losing two scholarships. The APR’s formula tracks a student’s academic progress over a four-year period, the newspaper stated. A perfect score is a 1,000 and the NCAA requires at least a 925 for a program. According to the AJC, the Owls posted scores of 883 in 2008-09 and 843 (2007-08).
However, Ingle disputes his specific program as academically flawed, but rather believes the entire athletic program at KSU was riddled with “infrastructure” issues once the school went Division I.
“No. 1, to say that it’s academic related is absolutely ludicrous,” he said. “I’ve got five children, four sons all graduated from college and all with a 3.0 GPA or better. One has a master’s from the University of Georgia and two are going for master’s right now. I’ve stressed academics in my own home. Fifty-five from Kennesaw State made the conference All-Academic Team, and I had 20 of my players do it at BYU.
“We were not ready to go Division I. ... APR is based on retention. If you raise academic standards or don’t have correct academic policies in, then the kids couldn’t be retained.”
Ingle, 60, admits he did roll the dice with some kids, and it backfired with classroom performance.
“I took a chance on recruits, but there was no infrastructure in place to handle them,” he said. “What do you look for in a recruit? Do they have good character, can they play basketball and do they have the academics? And you can flip that around in any order. ... I gave these kids an opportunity, and they made the NCAA requirements barely.”
However, he feels there were “lessons learned” from the experience, allowing him to be a better coach and leader. Now he wants the chance to start fresh and become a hometown hero.
“That’s one of the reasons I’m applying for the job,” he said. “I have family, friends and people there. Dalton is my hometown. I’m a Daltonian. I taught at Northwest Whitfield High School, taught at Southeast Whitfield High School, played at Dalton Junior College.
“We need something positive. If I’m the guy people need to hold the flashlight on, let’s give them something.”