Tony Ingle dies from COVID-19 after being on a ventilator for almost two weeks?

Say it isn’t so.

It makes one sick to ponder.

Ingle, a former BYU assistant, interim head basketball coach for the 1996-97 season, court jester, philosopher, stand-up comic, man of faith, friend to the masses, outstanding coaching mind, passionate teacher, father, husband, grandfather gone? 

A real loss, a painful wakeup call for everyone in this age of a global pandemic.  

If it can silence an angel, what chance do the rest of us have?

Ingle was a gift to humankind. His humility was his greatest attribute. He lived to visit, to talk. He had a heavenly Ph.D. in person-to-person propensity. 

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He could talk to anyone, anytime, anywhere. He could leave anyone laughing, smiling, sometimes crying. All he had to do was tell them of his life. He spun it well.  

His audiences were old ladies with canes and able-bodied collegiate athletes. 

Tony was a fearless defender of his faith. He’d go to a drive-up bank teller and ask her if she ever wondered where she really came from, why she was here, and where she was going.

At the time of his death he was serving as a young single adult minister in his ward in Orem for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

When he led his Dalton State basketball team to a national title in 2015. I described him as a treasure because he was. He was the mother lode.

He was 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 did best was spill unbridled passion onto hardwood painted with lines.

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Tony helped his wife Jeanne raise five wonderful kids. He lit their fuses and sent them into the world. Eliot, Sunshine, Golden, Tony and “Izzy” Israel all shared Tony’s greatest trait, they just loved.

In true father form, Tony taught his sons to dribble and shoot. They became a traveling act they were so good.

He loved his wife so much and spoke of her as a princess, his Cleopatra.

One hot July summer he asked if I’d put a sprinkler system in his new yard. I did it for a pair of new sneakers. He had that kind of impact on a person.

Witnessing him firsthand in hotel lobbies, team buses, airports, his backyard, on the sidelines and in front of audiences as a featured speaker, he always found a way to hit the right tone. He was a master of one-liners.

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After winning the junior college regional title at Gordon College he said he’d lost his voice and if Lawrence Welk had pointed his little stick at him, he wouldn’t have been able to sing a note at all.

He’d sometimes say, “Take your feet off the table, Mabel, give the cheese a chance to stink.”

And when he talked of his early days working with a shovel, he’d beam while telling how his daddy brought home a nice piece of machinery to help with the job. “It was a wheelbarrow.”

He was spontaneous, he was quick. He was a bit Tennyson, Shakespeare and Voltaire all rolled into a deep Southern accent.

He used to tease fellow assistant Charles Bradley because he was a star Wyoming Cowboy.  He’d call him Bronco Chuck and “say yippee ki yay Bronco Buckaroo” in public until Bradley was laughing in tears.

I’ll never forget his task after BYU fired Roger Reid mid-December 1996 and made him the interim coach. The other assistant coach, Lynn Archibald, would pass away by summer. Ingle was never promised the job, but he had hope.

That team was plagued by injuries, the loss of Shawn Bradley to the NBA and leading scorer Byron Ruffner to off-the-court issues in the fall. Ingle was asked to walk the plank until they could find a corporate-looking, mission-president-bound figure in Steve Cleveland to make a permanent fix.

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Game after game, this team lost. Center Jeff Campbell had back issues and would lie down flat behind the bench in pain. Point guard Matt Montague, one of the best passers in school history, would play his guts out to no avail. In the locker room, Ingle’s main job was to face players with tears streaming down their faces, cheer them up, then walk out to meet with the media and smile.

It may have been BYU’s biggest ask in school history. Before they went another way.

We could go over his life history, name every milestone, discuss every championship act and verbal quip of Ingle. But the main ingredient is just a simple, guileless gem of a guy, who saw rainbows where others saw storms.

I had COVID-19 the first week of November 2020. It was nothing more than a headache, sore muscles and a runny nose for a few days. I feel guilty it took Tony in such a dastardly way, without his family at his side.

I have two younger brothers who got it, one still on oxygen since Thanksgiving after double bacterial pneumonia along with his wife. The other brother, who has been going to dialysis three times a week for the past few years, just got it. We have fingers crossed and prayers aimed heavenward.

But, this isn’t about me or mine.

But Tony? Gone?

I didn’t think the past year could get any worse. Then it did.

I’m heartsick and broken over this.

I’ll need a tent-sized mask to hide my grief.