Former Jackson-area basketball coach remembered as man of character, compassionate leader –

Posted: October 27, 2020 at 4:58 pm

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Cowan boys varsity basketball coach Lee Ingles talks to his team during a timeout. (Photo by Tom Fouch/courtesy of David Ingles).

JACKSON The last time Lee Ingles stepped foot on a basketball court, he helped coach the Cowan High School boys varsity basketball team to their first Indiana High School Athletic Association sectional championship in 44 years.

A few days later, the COVID-19 pandemic brought an abrupt end to an otherwise special season for the Blackhawks. The basketball communities in both Jackson, Michigan and Cowan, Indiana are now mourning the abrupt loss of a coach who was held in high regard as a man of principle, compassion and commitment.

Ingles, age 50, died in a tragic car accident on Oct. 19, leaving behind his wife, Sally Ingles, and his two sons, Isaiah and Shea, as well as countless lives he touched throughout his time as a basketball coach and physical education teacher.

The most important thing I ever learned from my big brother was how to treat people with kindness, said David Ingles, current boys varsity basketball coach at Kent City High School. "It didnt matter who you were, Lee always showed everyone respect and built meaningful relationships with everyone he came in contact with.

Another thing I learned early on from him was how important work ethic is both on and off the court. He worked hard to be successful and I learned those habits by watching him work his way through the coaching profession. We also talked all the time about his offensive and defensive philosophy compared to mine.

The younger of the Ingles brothers helped coach Muskegon Catholic Central to a Class D state semifinal appearance in 2012 but not without a little help from his best friend.

Ive stolen so many ideas from him during my coaching career, said Ingles of his older brother. "During our tournament run to the Breslin Center with MCC in 2012, I picked his brain before every game. He showed me a simple way to get the ball into our post player and we put it in the next day at practice and other teams could not stop it. It was a great postseason run for us and a lot of that was from the tips I got from Lee between each game.

I will really miss those phone calls we shared. We discussed everything with each other. I shared things with him that I have not told anyone else. He always had the perfect advice for what I needed. He was and always will be a great role model for me as both a person and a coach.

If youve ever seen either Lee or David Ingles roam the sidelines, youll see a similar style of passionate energy and attention to detail that has helped both men find success at every coaching stop during their careers.

We believed that if you truly care about your players, they will do incredible things for you, said Ingles. "We were never big yellers or screamers. We always believed in trying to stay calm in all situations because thats how we wanted our teams to play. We asked them to play with poise, so we wanted to coach with the same mentality. I am still trying to be as good of a coach as he was. That is a goal I will never reach but will always pursue.

I think something we all could learn from Lee is to leave everything better than when you found it. That could be a basketball program, your job, a relationship, etc. Everything he got involved with became better once he got there. He just had that effect on things.

Ingles definitely left the basketball community in Jackson better than how he found it, after his tenures as a boys varsity basketball coach at Parma Western from 2006 to 2014, as an assistant coach at Spring Arbor University from 1999 to 2006 and as a boys varsity basketball coach at Jackson Northwest from 1993 to 1995.

Lee was a great guy, who generally cared about everyone he came in contact with, said current Jackson Northwest boys varsity basketball coach John Moffitt. "At his funeral, it really showed how many lives he touched, because everyone that spoke, whether it was a family member, a coach or a former player, they all mentioned how much he cared.

He would always have players over at his house because he wanted them to feel like they were a part of his family. Whether he was at Spring Arbor, Northwest or Western, he always showed compassion for his players. As a coach, he was always very passionate. He pushed his players and they always gave him their best. His teams were always an extension of him tough, gritty and competitive and he brought that fiery energy to the sidelines every night.

Moffitt and Ingles created a special bond during their time together at Jackson Northwest, where they shared the role of middle school physical education teachers and eventually varsity basketball coaches.

We taught together for probably 15-16 years, said Moffitt. "He eventually started coaching the boys varsity team and I coached the girls varsity team. We really developed a close friendship through those formative years as coaches and teachers.

"I picked up on a lot of things from working under him as a coach and Ive always tried to model my coaching style after him, especially when it comes to building relationships and making everyone feel important to the process. He was a man of principle and a coach of character. He wanted to teach every young man he came in contact with the difference between right and wrong and how sustained success can only be accomplished through hard work.

You could always find him hugging his players after games because he just cared about those kids. It didnt matter to him if you were the star player or the last guy on the bench, he cared about you and how you fit into the program and I thought that was just one of the amazing things about him.

Western Head Coach Lee Ingles yells at his team during a game against Portland at the Panther Holiday Hoops Tournament at Western High School Saturday, December 28, 2013. (Grant Hindsley | MLive Media GroupMLive Media Group

A health scare in 2012 nearly ended Ingles' life during an open gym at Parma Western High School, but a quick response from an athletic trainer and a dedication to recovery helped the coach get back on the sidelines.

Lee had a heart attack in April of 2012 when he was playing alongside some players in an open gym, said Moffitt. "I was there, and it was a pretty scary situation. He just dropped all of sudden and we all knew something was wrong.

"Luckily, the athletic trainer called an ambulance right away and we were able to get him to the hospital as soon as possible because we later find out he had a widowmaker heart attack, which is a 100-percent blockage of his (left descending artery).

"He made a commitment to bounce back from that and he was back on the sidelines by that winter. The doctors placed some restrictions on him that said he shouldnt be standing or walking around during the games, but there was no way Lee was going to sit quietly on the bench once the ball was tipped.

He loved the game of basketball and his players too much to let anything slow him down.

Ingles eventually made a full recovery from his heart attack and went on to coach two more seasons for the Panthers before eventually moving to Indiana when his wife, Dr. Sally (Reed) Ingles, was hired as a Dean in the School of Educational Leadership at Indiana Wesleyan University.

It didnt take long for Ingles to get integrated into the community, as Cowan High School had an opening for a physical education teacher. Shortly after that, Ingles was coaching the Blackhawks boys varsity basketball program.

The Cowan boys basketball team quickly evolved under Ingles, winning just one game prior to his arrival and jumping up to nine wins during his first season in 2014-15 and 15 wins during the 2015-16 season. After a few up-and-down seasons, the Blackhawks enjoyed a 14-10 season last winter, which culminated with the schools first sectional championship since 1976.

They had a big parade through town after they won that sectional and the whole city of Cowan celebrated that accomplish with the team, said Moffitt. Its really bittersweet but I think we can all appreciate that he won the last game he ever coached and it was one that brought a lot of happiness and memories to the community he was serving.

When he wasnt coaching, Ingles enjoyed spending time golfing, hunting and playing softball. He starred as a fast-pitch softball pitcher as a young athlete, helping his teams win several state championships at the age 18-and-under division.

The 1993 Spring Arbor University graduate returned to his alma mater in 1999 as an assistant coach, where he impacted many young lives, including current SAU athletic director and mens basketball coach Ryan Cottingham.

Lee and I connected when I took over the head coaching job at Spring Arbor, but I didnt really know him at the time, he said. "I brought him on as a member of my staff and we really got to know each other well for the next eight years.

It was an amazing experience coaching alongside him during that time. We won a couple of National Christian College Championships in 2005 and 2006 but I thought getting to know him, his wife, Sally, and his sons, Isaiah and Shea, was the thing I will cherish the most. Lee and I became great friends over the years and got to go on a few amazing trips with our wives and kids to see (NCAA basketball) Final Fours in Atlanta, Georgia, and San Antonio, Texas.

Western Head Coach Lee Ingles talks to his team during the half at a game against Portland at the Panther Holiday Hoops Tournament at Western High School Saturday, December 28, 2013. (Grant Hindsley | MLive Media GroupMLive Media Group

Cottingham believes Ingles' funeral was exactly what the compassionate and energetic coach would have wanted.

The celebration of his life was really powerful and moving and it was amazing to see his two boys get up and talk about their dad with such poise and confidence during a difficult time, he said. "It was really, really cool to be a part of that and I know that family will be strong enough to move forward and live their lives in a way that would make their dad proud.

"He was a man of faith and a principled guy. He was loved and respected by everyone. He was a family man and just such a great person. He had a big impact on my life and my family feels enriched for having him and his family be a part of our lives.

I always appreciated his passion and energy, but the way he connected with his players was special. He created a safe space for our guys and they loved having him around and they played their hearts out for him.

For current Parma Western varsity football coach Dave Mifsud, Ingles impact was short-lived but irreplaceable.

When I first started at Western, I got a chance to meet Lee in the spring before we scheduled our football and basketball summer camps together, and he was really easy to work with, he said. "I ended up coaching freshmen basketball that first year at Western when he was the boys varsity coach and I got to know him pretty well that winter.

"There were several times where we would sit down and talk about things that ranged from the football and basketball programs to life in general and I just felt like we were really on the same page in a lot of areas.

"It was kind of tough when he called me to tell me he was leaving Western because I felt like we had become good friends and I was sad to be losing that connection with him. I was a brand new coach to the area and he really took the time to get to know me and we shared similar philosophies in life and coaching and I really enjoyed having him in my life for the time he was at Western.

I wish we could have spent more time together, but I know his impact will never be forgotten by anyone who crossed paths with him.


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Former Jackson-area basketball coach remembered as man of character, compassionate leader -

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