Kennesaw’s Tony Ingle: An overnight sensation after 36 years

Tony Ingle on the night KSU made nationwide noise. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Tony Ingle on KSU's night of nights. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Tony Ingle began coaching in 1974. (Or, as he says, “when Moby Dick was a minnow.”) He’s 58 and has five grandchildren. He awoke Tuesday to find himself an overnight sensation.

Kennesaw State beat Georgia Tech of the snooty ACC by 17 points Monday night, and on Tuesday ESPN’s “SportsCenter” kept asking/answering the question, “Who is Kennesaw State?” And KSU’s coach, the aforementioned Tony Ingle, heard from everyone he’d ever known via every means of modern communication — e-mail, text message and calls on his home, office and cell phones.

Not that sudden fame is always a blessing. Said Ingle: “I even heard from a bill collector. He thought I’d died.”

So now we’re asking: Who is Tony Ingle? And we start by saying, “Pull up a chair.”

He was born in Dalton with a facial deformity that has required five surgeries. His dad worked in a saw mill and a cotton mill. Ingle played guard at North Whitfield High and then at Dalton Junior College. The team went to the national JUCO tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas, his freshman season and returned the next year determined to win it all. Ingle’s girlfriend — now his wife — drove to Kansas in an old Ford Pinto and arrived in time to see an opponent step on Ingle’s foot after he made a steal.

His knee was wrecked. He was taken to a hospital in Wichita and put on a plane home. Looking out the window, he spotted his dad on the tarmac. It was the first time he’d seen his father cry. Sitting on that plane, Ingle told himself, “Someday I’m going to win a national championship.”

Ingle began coaching a Boys Club team while a student at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Ala. He coached three high schools in Georgia, then moved to Gordon College in Barnesville, then to Alabama-Huntsville. In 1989 he took a job as Roger Reid’s assistant at BYU. Seven years later the school fired Reid and named Ingle the interim coach. BYU proceeded to lose its next 19 games.

After the season, BYU president Merrill Bateman told Ingle he wasn’t being retained. As Ingle walked away, he turned and told Bateman, “If you ever want to win it all, give me a call.”

Braggadocio aside, Ingle was hurting. He was basketball poison: Who wanted to hire the guy who’d gone 0-19? He worked seven non-coaching jobs, doing TV commentary on Mountain West games and selling golf equipment for Fila and serving as Utah area representative for Blue Ridge Commercial Carpet of Ellijay, Ga. He was $30,000 in debt. Worse still, he was depressed. He’d go days without leaving a house that faced foreclosure.

“You know it’s tough,” Ingle said, “when the highlight of your day is a bowel movement.”

In 2000 he found a school with a basketball program willing to hire him — Kennesaw State. He told his first band of Owls they were going to win a national championship. Some among them laughed out loud. In 2004 Kennesaw State won the Division II NCAA title.

Ingle is now a published author — his book is titled, “I Don’t Mind Hitting Bottom, I Just Hate Dragging” — and a motivational speaker. “You’re not a failure if you fail and you’re not a loser if you lose,” goes one snippet from his spiel. “You’re only a failure if you blame others and only a loser if you quit.”

For all the busted knees and smelly locker rooms and long bus rides and KSU’s recent upward slog from Division II to Division I, Monday made it all worth  it. Kennesaw State, which only last season became a fully vested member of the Atlantic Sun Conference, beat Georgia Tech and the basketball world took note. Beforehand, Ingle had implored his players to “bring your dream,” and they won what their coach called “the biggest game in school history” without ever trailing.

But Wednesday brought another game. KSU wore down at the end and lost to Chattanooga 73-69. Ingle said afterward he’d been worried since April about this being an “ambush,” but what’s a coach to do? In basketball as in life, there’s always something else coming. That’s why basketball men keep opening the gym for practice: So the next game can be better.

“I love coaching,” Ingle had said earlier in the day. Then this: ” I tell people I’m going two years past [Penn State's Joe] Paterno.  If he goes to 84, I’ll coach till I’m 86.”

- By Mark Bradley, AJC

71 comments Add your comment

Reality Bites

November 17th, 2010
3:11 pm

Reality Bites

November 17th, 2010
3:13 pm

Never been first before….woot! Great article Mark. Assa Tech fan, I love it that you are hold ing Mr Contract accountable. maybe one day he will reaise that Tech isnt the place for him anymore and move on. At least Bobby C knew the game had passed him by and resigned….I just dont think that Peeeuuwit gets it….or maybe he does and is only there for the money.

bob didier slept here

November 17th, 2010
3:16 pm

One of your best blogs yet Mark! Incredible Story of courgage and never, ever giving up! This ole UGA Dawg fan just became a KSU fan! Not sure if I want to see UGA play KSU now!

UGA Athletic Department

November 17th, 2010
3:20 pm

Hey Tech…..

Do you need to borrow $7 Millionto buy out your coach?? Let us know. We make that every home football game.

KevinM

November 17th, 2010
3:21 pm

Mark, kudos for you taking the time to tell Coach Ingle’s story. The guy and his family are dedicated to this game of basketball and he is very appreciative of everything.

His kids performed at 1/2 times when they were young, grew up under his tutelage and played for their dad.

I remember him when I played high school ball at Sprayberry during the Dale Ellis era in Cobb County. Coach Ingle was the Cherokee head coach and his teams were always tough and his players played hard for him. Coach Ingle knew he could have success coming back to his home state.
When I saw his appointment to KSU, I knew he would bring success. He just knows how to motivate and coach up his team.

Would anyone be surprised to see him pull a George Mason? I wouldn’t. He knows basketball.

Saint Simons

November 17th, 2010
3:23 pm

(((((80-63))))) hahahahahahahaha!!!!!

Glory Glory

November 17th, 2010
3:24 pm

Honestly,

Is beating Tech in basketball that big an achievement??

KevinM

November 17th, 2010
3:24 pm

Hey Bob Diddy…I agree, Coach Fox shouldn’t do it……remember how Harrick took on Georgia State as a goodwill effort and they slapped Georgia around?

You potentially end up in the same scenario as CPH. Can’t wait to hear the CPH radio show tonight. It ought to be full of supporters.

Mark Bradley

November 17th, 2010
3:28 pm

Kudos, Reality.. And thanks.

PreyDawg

November 17th, 2010
3:30 pm

Mark,

I like all your stories but please do more on the Falcons. This is the sports story of the last several years for this area. When you consider where this franchise was a three short years ago and now we are the best in the NFL??!! We need our best guys covering this team. Please hang out in Flowery Branch.

DBW

November 17th, 2010
3:39 pm

Drive-By Truckers Mark? “There’s a lot of bad wood underneath the veneer”

Ted M

November 17th, 2010
3:53 pm

Beating GT of the ACC usually is a big deal for a program like KSU but unfortunately for Ingle beating Paul Hewitt is no big deal at all.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark Bradley, Aaron Heintzelman, KSU OWL Radio, The Sentinel, Josh Martin and others. Josh Martin said: Great article. RT @MarkBradleyAJC: #Kennesaw State coach Tony Ingle: An overnight sensation — he beat #GaTech on Mon. http://bit.ly/bQ7CnC [...]

Glenn

November 17th, 2010
4:05 pm

Mormons are white . 0-19 isn’t to shabby .

whats GT basketball?

November 17th, 2010
4:08 pm

Great story Mark….I remember Coach Engle at Cherokee HS and man he had some good Teams. You should ask him about the play where he had a player “TURNING flips” on the floor and the team scores winning basket. Best of Luck to KSU and Coach Engle. I’m sure you won alot of new fans and GT lost afew.
GT has a problem because everyone wants Paul Hewitt gone but don’t have the money to pay him off. He will never quit because of the money. He’s got a gold mine. Drads and School Pres etc need to do whatever possible to get him out..The PR is killing our Univ. The Students, Fans and State of GA. deserves better. Get’tr done Drads! Better now than later.

Ted M

November 17th, 2010
4:08 pm

I kinda feel bad about breaking up Tony Parker’s marriage.

Fire Paul Bewitt

November 17th, 2010
4:11 pm

Congrad to KSU and Coach Engle. Keep up the good work Mark.

Asheville Dawg

November 17th, 2010
4:11 pm

Congratulation Mr. Ingle for an inspiring win.

Heath

November 17th, 2010
4:27 pm

I’m from Dalton and a KSU (KSC back then) grad. It’s really exciting to see their athletics department taking off. With their enrollment, they could be a power in this state in the not too distant future.

And man, when Dalton College had that basketball team they were no joke. Ingle knows from good teams.

Yurtle_the_turtle

November 17th, 2010
4:30 pm

I’m a KSU alum and a GT alum (undergrad/grad). I used to pull for GT all the time but now don’t give a damn about a program that keeps an inept coach because of his contract. I’ll be pulling for the Owls now.

Paul in RDU

November 17th, 2010
4:35 pm

Mark – Great article. Nice to see some pub for a guy few people had heard of before Monday night.

jambee

November 17th, 2010
4:37 pm

Nice Drive-By-Truckers reference….

Who dat

November 17th, 2010
4:40 pm

So Ted, you banged Tony Parker?

spider

November 17th, 2010
4:54 pm

his team just beat one of the worsed coached teams in america, how in the world does that make him and overnight success????

Gordon

November 17th, 2010
5:11 pm

I’m a Tech fan and was at the game, and you cannot help but be happy for Coach Ingle, his team, and all the KSU fans. Congratulations and good luck.

Worm

November 17th, 2010
5:21 pm

AH, Those Dalton JR. college teams..Roger Rome of the Valdosta Romes..I played in that era against alot of those guys and have been following Tony’s career since those days..

skydawg

November 17th, 2010
5:41 pm

I played baseball at Gordon College while Tony Ingle was the basketball coach. As good a coach he is, he’s a better person, husband and father. Just a great guy with incredible charisma. He deserves any and all success that comes his way. And being a UGA fan, it gave me a little chuckle to see him pull out the W. KSU will be as successful with him as they allow him to be. Give him the resources and he’ll build a consistent winner there.

"Chef" Tim Dix

November 17th, 2010
6:04 pm

I just signed with CPH agent.

MY contract renews every second.

So I’ve got that going for me…

Mark Bradley

November 17th, 2010
6:12 pm

Folks, I hate to tell you and DOB this, but the Drive-By Truckers reference was inadvertent.

Ozzy

November 17th, 2010
6:12 pm

I’m a Tech fan (a little embarrassed to admit that right now), but congratulations to Coach Ingle and KSU. That was a good old fashioned butt kicking, no two ways about it.

I’ll be following the Owls season since it doesn’t look like there’s going to be much to cheer for at GT, unless Drad does what everyone knows he needs to do.

Steve

November 17th, 2010
6:49 pm

I watched the entire game and all I can say is WOW! KSU looked tiny and completely physically outmanned .. and yet they dominated. They outhustled, outplayed, out-gutted .. out EVERYTHiNGED Georgia Tech (the most overrated school in Div-1a in almost every sport).

Congrats to Coach Ingle and to all those players that put it all on the line.

todd grantham

November 17th, 2010
6:51 pm

Congrats to Coach Ingle. Especially at the expense of Hewitt and Tech.

todd grantham

November 17th, 2010
6:52 pm

Schpiel sounds fancier Mark.

dawg3u

November 17th, 2010
7:34 pm

My question is – why did Tech even schedule this game? They had everything to lose and nothing to gain. Mark you were right in that they are not even the best college team in the metro area. Beating Tech in anything anymore is no big deal. Hewitt even has to be laughing considering the amount of money he’s stealing from Tech.

GssiT

November 17th, 2010
7:34 pm

Great article, Mark. Coach Ingle is a true gym rat.

Anthony Whatley

November 17th, 2010
8:15 pm

I was at Gordon College when Coach Ingle was there. I did not play baskeball for him but I did take softball in a class he taught. He was always funny and a very good guy. Congrats Coach.

Willy

November 17th, 2010
8:16 pm

I second the motion for more Falcons coverage. I know blogs about how bad the bulldogs are get 1000 views a minute, but the Falcons are a big story that the AJC hasn’t given half as much coverage to as the Bulldogs. It’s really silly.

Max Sizemore

November 17th, 2010
8:18 pm

Tony used to tell the story — maybe he still does — of calling a timeout with his team well behind in the second half. He then instructed two of his players to guard the referees (then there were two) coming out of the timeout. (Yes, the REFS!) So they did. This went on for a few seconds, and the refs called a timeout. They asked Tony what was going on, and he said, “First thing I learned in coaching was to guard the people who were hurting you the most.”

CJGaTech

November 17th, 2010
8:19 pm

Kennesaw, the other Stone Mountain around The Perimeter. It is recognizable from I 75 driving north beyond The Perimeter and looking west. Look for the lone mountain, similar to Stone Mountain’s lone existence, and that’s Kennesaw. People who live there have to abide by a law that requires residents to own a gun. These are the things I know about Kennesaw. Their college still should not have beaten Tech by 17, and this loss might mean the end of Hewitt within the Athletic Association’s plans for a new Tech colisseum. I am a Tech grad of ‘73.

Cam Newton's Father

November 17th, 2010
8:35 pm

For $200,000 Cam will come to GT and coach the men’s basketball team!

todd grantham

November 17th, 2010
8:44 pm

Mark, you know that Mike Slive is one worthless, gutless commissioner of the SEC. To watch those replays of fairley and his dirty hits on Aaron Murray makes me retch.

todd grantham

November 17th, 2010
8:48 pm

why has Richt been so gutless about speaking out about the dirty play? Trying to be politically correct and save his job? At the expense of a 19 year old kid??

todd grantham

November 17th, 2010
8:49 pm

a loss to Tech and richt is gone. thank goodness.

Todd

November 17th, 2010
9:14 pm

Kennsaw losing to Chattanooga who has 2 losses

truthbetold

November 17th, 2010
9:38 pm

Great that KSU beat Tech. Tech is obviously down this year. Truth is, however, the KSU basketball team has committed many infractions that have been covered up and the NCAA should investigate. Ladaris Green was academically dismissed from KSU for the 2nd time at the end of the spring semester. His grades were changed in order to keep him in school. Also, a few guys on the team, Spencer Dixon being one, were caught smoking marijuana in the school apartments last year, and served no suspension, while kids from other sports were punished. A string of assumingly unethical actions taken by Tony Ingle might have lead Greg Matta from resignation of his role as assistant coach. The new coach hired in his place, Coach Houle, had a hard time finding a high school job the past few years in Utah after a few sexual harrasment charges filed against him from young girls. And most recently, former NCAA Compliance Enforcer, and now former KSU Compliance Director, Eddie Weatherington, was fired out-of-the-blue and speculation is because he would not compromise his position and career in order to cover the infractions and unethical dealings of Kennesaw State University. So, tell me, is their “success” all from hard-work, or from flying under the radar and being crooked?

Mark Bradley

November 17th, 2010
9:51 pm

This could hurt Tech’s RPI: Kennesaw State loses to Chattanooga 73-69.

Todd

November 17th, 2010
9:54 pm

You think Mark? That loss means gt would have to go 10-6 in the acc. Like that will happen.
And chatta was 0-2 before playing Kenn.
Chattanooga can go to KSU and win by 4 and tech goes and loses by 17. Nice Hewitt! Keep up the great coaching you putz.

todd grantham

November 17th, 2010
9:55 pm

Runs Per Inning?

todd grantham

November 17th, 2010
9:58 pm

Todd

November 17th, 2010
9:59 pm

Gt has to have the worst strength of schedule for any big conf team ever. Not one ranked team and on top of that, they lose to a college that’s been playing in Div 1 for what 2 years?
Here are some other schools in KSU’s conference. Good for a laugh

Fla Gulf Coast
Campbell
Lipscomb
North Florida
and my favorite…S Carolina Upstate!!