Tears built up in the Dalton native’s eyes intermittently, and he came close, but he held his composure and showed his happiness through his words, not his emotions.
Dalton State College is happy to have the former Kennesaw State coach, too.
Ingle was introduced Thursday as the first coach for the college’s relaunched NAIA men’s basketball program, after one season out of coaching following the end of an 11-year tenure at Kennesaw State.
When Ingle, who played for two years at then-Dalton Junior College in the 1970s, entered the room with athletic director Derek Waugh for his news conference Thursday, a cheer could be heard. After Waugh and Dalton State president John Schwenn spoke to the crowd, Ingle followed with laughter-inducing stories about his past and the importance of athletics returning to Dalton State.
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, following by thanking 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 city’s housing projects.
“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 1971-73. He talked about playing high school ball and seeing his first college basketball game at the college before the men’s program was 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’s Kennesaw State team.
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 or 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 Chattanooga head coach Henry Dickerson, former Georgia Southern assistant coach Carl Nash and former Winthrop 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.
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 came with references from Florida coach Billy Donovan, Minnesota’s Tubby Smith and former NBA coach Hubie Brown. His coaching resume includes an NCAA Division II National championship at Kennesaw State in 2004.
A great work ethic is one of the things Ingle is promising to the fans and the students of Dalton State. He used one of his many analogies to show as 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 to the crowd. “This is our program, and I’m glad to be a part of it.”