DALTON, Ga. (WDEF) — Legendary Dalton State basketball coach Tony Ingle lost his battle with COVID-19 Monday night. His life left a lasting impact on the Roadrunners and their current head coach Alex Ireland.
“[I owe] All of [my career to Ingle]. Literally all of it,” Ireland said.
Ingle didn’t just win national titles — two to be exact. He won the hearts of everyone he crossed paths with, especially his players and coaches.
“He really wanted to coach the people rather than the sport of basketball,” said Roadrunners senior Aaron Burress, who was recruited by Ingle.
“As much as I remember him for stuff that happened on the court, it’d be jokes he told in the office, or the jokes he told on bus, or the jokes he told in the hotel [that I’ll remember the most],” Ireland said. “Just the fun, lively conversation that we always used to have.”
He also brought life back to the Dalton State basketball program.
“We didn’t have a program when coach restarted the program,” Ireland said. “He put it on a level that very few can put programs that have been around a lot longer than ours have.
“It’s just hard to lose coach. It’s just hard to lose somebody who meant so much to all of us, the community, the team, me as an individual, a lot of the players as individuals. And so we certainly want to honor coach in how we play this year.”
“It makes me want to play harder,” Burress said. “It makes me want to play for him and give everything I have to the game as much as possible. It makes me want to be more of a leader for the rest of the team for the rest of the season.”
My dad, Tony Ingle has been in the ICU for a week. He’s struggling to breath on his own as he battles Covid-19. Two days ago his breathing machine was responsible for 100% of his oxygen. His oxygen has improved since but he has a long fight ahead.Please keep him in your prayers! pic.twitter.com/wFrSHZIFsI
— Izzy Ingle (@Coach_IzzyIngle) December 28, 2020
“One of his favorite songs was ‘My Girl’ by The Temptations, and I was listening to that Tuesday and I cried a little bit because I remember him, we were coming back from I think Loyola or somewhere and we were right down 75 and he got up and started singing it. It was good times,” Burress said.
“Even a week ago, Coach and I were texting. And any time you text with Coach, he always tells you he loves you more that you love him,” Ireland said. “Just to think I’ll never get another one of those text messages, I’ll never have a conversation with him again, or I’ll never hear a joke again, just hard to believe, he was such a vibrant character, it’s just hard to believe he’s not here anymore.”