I have four sisters here in Dalton and to them, this is a very big deal. I guess it is for me, too. All my bill collectors thought I was dead. Now with all this publicity I will have to pay them back on a multi-year installment plan. – Tony Ingle

He’s basketball's Will Rogers. If the movie "Braveheart" was about hoops instead of Scotsman William Wallace, he’d be a kind of Mel Gibson. Some believe he could host a late-night TV comedy show.

But the thing Tony Ingle does best is spill unbridled passion onto hardwood painted with lines.

Ingle proved that for the second time in 11 years this past week in Kansas City.

Last Tuesday the former interim head basketball coach at BYU (1996-97) led Dalton State (Georgia) past Westmont College (California) for the 78th NAIA National Championship. In 2004, Ingle’s Kennesaw State team won the NCAA Division II national title.

Thing is, until last season, basketball at Dalton State didn't exist the previous 35 years. Ingle, who played for the Roadrunners out of high school, is a native of Dalton and the school called upon him to resurrect the sport in 2014. Literally, I mean resurrect. He started from scratch, recruiting players, calling boosters for donations and ordering basketballs and uniforms.

A year later, Ingle took Dalton to the NAIA Tournament and the No. 6-seeded Roadrunners won five games in seven days.

“I lost my voice. If Lawrence Welk had pointed that short little stick at me, I wouldn’t have been able to sing him a note at all,” said Ingle.

"This was our first chance to even compete and we did quite well," Ingle told reporters afterward. “It's because of the kind of kids we have, the kind of support we have from our administration and our faculty, our fans, our boosters. Our players are just phenomenal. Championship character kids all the way."

The road wasn’t easy. It never has been for Ingle.

When given the nod to restart hoops at Dalton State, he had to recruit players who knew they could not compete in the postseason for a year. He had to build a team comprised of players from every class — freshmen, sophomores, a lot of juniors and what seniors he could find.

More than a year ago one of Ingle's assistant coaches was nearly killed in a car accident. Late last April, John Redman’s car crashed into a bridge, killing his fiancé, Brittany Huber, five days before the two were to be married. The couple was traveling to their wedding in Atlanta when the accident happened. It left Redman in a medically induced coma for 18 days, hospitalized with five broken ribs, eight broken teeth and 21 skull fractures.

Redman, miraculously, was back as an assistant coach this season.

When I asked Ingle how in the world he took a program from nothing to a title in a year, he answered, "A jockey doesn’t win a horse race by himself.”

Still, Dalton State’s championship is the perfect story for a college basketball team in March. Almost 20 years ago, BYU’s administration asked Ingle to take over the basketball program when it fired Roger Reid just before Christmas in 1996. He agreed to do so hoping he’d get a chance at the full-time job. The other assistant coach, Lynn Archibald, would live only through the spring.

BYU ended up hiring Fresno City College coach Steve Cleveland. Ingle continued on a nomadic journey that would take him and his wife Jeanne on an odyssey of moving 16 times in 15 years.

This latest title was just another chapter in Ingle’s remarkable coaching saga. “I’ve been so very blessed. Yes, blessed indeed,” he said Saturday from his home in Dalton where he grew up in an impoverished setting.

“I have four sisters here in Dalton and to them, this is a very big deal. I guess it is for me, too.

"All my bill collectors thought I was dead. Now with all this publicity, I will have to pay them back on a multi-year installment plan."

In reality, Ingle is the only basketball coach at any level in Georgia (NCAA Division I, Division II or NAIA) to ever win a national title.

And now he's done it twice.

Ingle’s son Izzy, a former coach at Gordon College, is now in his first year as the coach at Timpanogos High School in Orem. With a daughter and grandkids in Utah, Ingle would be a natural candidate to replace Dick Hunsaker as coach of Utah Valley — if UVU is interested.

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BYU assistant Mark Pope and Lone Peak High coach Quincy Lewis, among others, have applied for that UVU job.

The state could use Ingle to spice up hoops a little. Maybe even a lot.

Ingle could certainly do exactly that.

Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at dharmon@desnews.com.

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