When Tony Ingle first came to Kennesaw State as its men’s basketball coach in 2000, he was coming off a struggle-filled tenure as the interim head coach at BYU.
Ingle approached Scott Whitlock, the longtime Kennesaw State softball coach and administrator, expressing a little apprehension.
“When we hired Tony, he was coming off being interim head coach at BYU, where he didn’t have much success,” Whitlock said. “He came up to me and asked, ‘What kind of advice can you give someone who just went 0-19?’ I told him, ‘Don’t stand so close. I don’t want it to rub off.’”
Any concerns Ingle had were quickly alleviated as he launched a successful and respected career in Kennesaw, where he was mourned following his death Monday of complications from COVID-19. He was 68.
Ingle had been placed on a ventilator Jan. 8, according to a Facebook post by his daughter, Sunshine Ingle-Tuckett. She said her father had contracted the virus in early December and was admitted to the hospital Dec. 20
Israel Ingle, one of the coach’s four sons, made the announcement on Twitter late Monday night.
“It’s with a shattered heart I post this,” Israel Ingle tweeted. “My dad, Coach Tony Ingle passed away tonight. I’m so blessed to have had such an amazing father & example throughout my life!! I love you dad!! I already miss you!! Thanks to everyone who has prayed for our family during this tough time.”
Golden Ingle, another son along with Elliot and Tony Jr., the girls basketball coach at Kell High School, also made an announcement on Facebook.
“I was blessed this evening to be with my Dad as he took his final breaths,” Golden Ingle wrote. “I love him so much. He is a man of God who lived life to the fullest. I want to thank everyone for your thoughts and prayers on our behalf. There is no way our family could’ve made it through this with out them.
“Dad always helped us through tough times with fun and laughter. I can’t help but remember the poem he wrote when his mother passed away. It reads, “Life is short, serious, and frail. Learn from it, laugh at it, and live it well!”
“I love you Dad and miss you already but I know our Heavenly Father needs you with him now. One of my favorite quotes, ‘What you do for yourself is gone when you’re gone, but what you do for others is your legacy that lives on.’ I’m glad to join thousands of other people to be part of your legacy that lives on.”
Ingle is also survived by his wife, Jeanne, and 10 grandchildren.
Ingle was a head coach for 33 years, making stops along the way at Gordon College, Alabama-Huntsville and BYU, but he made his biggest mark at Kennesaw State from 2000-11, where he built the NCAA Division II program into a national power.
He took the Owls to three straight national tournament appearances from 2003-05. During the 2003-04 season, they went 35-4 and won the national championship, beating Southern Indiana 84-59 in Bakersfield, California.
“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 in a release. “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.”
When Ingle got to Kennesaw State, he helped current North Cobb Christian boys basketball coach Greg Matta break into coaching. Initially, a part-time assistant, Matta worked with Ingle from 2000-05, and then again in the 2009-10 season.
“Coach was always telling me, ‘Always have fun,’” Matta said. “I remember, when I got back into coaching after a few years out, he said, ‘Matta is finally chasing his passion and not his pension.’ He always cared and was always looking out for everybody.”
In 2006, Kennesaw State moved to Division I, and Ingle led the program through the transitional period, remaining coach until the end of the 2010-11 season. That last season included one of the program’s biggest wins — an 80-63 win over Georgia Tech in front of a sold-out crowd at the KSU Convocation Center.
Kelvin McConnell, a Whitefield Academy graduate, was a senior captain of that team, scoring 10 points off the bench against the Yellow Jackets.
“Woke up to the horrible news that my college coach Tony Ingle has passed,” McConnell tweeted Tuesday. “This man literally changed my life when he gave me opportunity to walk on my freshman year at (Kennesaw State).
“He gave me a scholarship my sophomore year and the rest was history... Rest Easy Coach.”
Ingle had a 178-166 record in his 11 years at the Kennesaw State helm.
“He was half-salesman and half-P.T. Barnum,” said Whitlock, adding he and Ingle could always share a laugh and a smile. When Kennesaw State came back from winning the national championship in California, Whitlock said he could tell Ingle had put the program on another level.
“You just don’t understand how difficult it was to go out there and win a single-elimination tournament like that,” said Whitlock, who coached the softball team to consecutive Division II national championships in 1995 and ’96. “That was the biggest news in the athletic department at that time.
“He was a bigger-than-life personality.”
In 2013, Ingle he returned to his native Dalton and coach at his alma mater, Dalton State, where he had played in the early 1970s when it was Dalton Junior College.
After 35 years, the Roadrunners’ program was reborn under Ingle’s watch. In the first season back, he guided the team to a 26-4 record. In Year 2, Dalton State went 32-4 and won the NAIA Division I championship, defeating Westmont (Calif.) 71-53 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Ingle was named the NAIA Coach of the Year that season.
Prior to his career in college basketball, Ingle coached the boys team at Cherokee High School from 1978-85. He led the Warriors to the 1982 state championship game, where they came up one-point short in a 68-67 loss to Campbell High School.
Ingle was inducted to the Cherokee County Sports Hall of Fame in 2009. He was also announced as an inductee into the Cherokee High School Hall of Fame five days before his death.