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  • Matt Scher

Former Eastern Kentucky standout Ingles named head coach for Comet women's basketball just in time

The Olivet College women’s basketball program has a new coach just in time for the upcoming 2016-17 season. Former professional basketball player Zach Ingles takes over the program from Coach Nicole Burford for his first collegiate head coaching job.

Burford’s tenure at the head coach position lasted from 2010 to 2016 and she was an assistant coach under Heather Bateman the three seasons from 2007 to 2010. In six seasons, she compiled a 77-77 record in 154 games coached. The 77 wins were the most in Olivet women’s basketball history. Burfors is now a coach at Oakland University.

Ingles’ style fits OC

Olivet College Athletic Director Ryan Shockey liked Ingles from the start and said in a taped interview, "For me, a big thing was his style of basketball that he wants to play. He wants to run a really aggressive press basketball. Talking about scoring a lot of points, while playing an in your face kind of defense, a thing that I think would bring an exciting brand to Olivet College and be really entertaining and fun to watch. I believe we can win with it." There is so much more than the on court product for Ingles, Shockey said, "He [Ingles] is extremely passionate about basketball. His dad [Kent] has been a basketball coach his whole life. He [Ingles] has been around basketball ever since he was a newborn. So, he understands the game, he loves the game, and he is very passionate about the game. The style of basketball he wants to play I think he will be very successful with."

High school experience

Ingles previous stops before Olivet include most recently the head varsity boys’ basketball coach at Tri County High School in Howard City during the 2015-16 campaign. He led the Vikings to 13 wins, the most since 2011 and was named the Daily News Coach of the Year. In addition to his head coaching duties in high school, Ingles was an assistant men’s basketball coach at Muskegon Community College in 2014-15, Grand Rapids Community College from 2011-14 and Aquinas College (Grand Rapids) in 2010-11.

Ingles’ accolades

Ingles is ranked at 22 on the career scoring list in Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) history with 2,130 points and is sixth in three-pointers with 254 at Greenville High School. Collegiately, he played two years at Pasco-Hernando State College in Dade City, Florida where he was named the 2002-03 SunCoast Conference Rookie of the Year and 2003-04 SunCoast Conference Player of the Year.

In 2005, Ingles transferred to Eastern Kentucky University and with the Colonels, he made a three-pointer with 22 seconds to go to clinch the Ohio Valley Conference tournament and send Eastern Kentucky to the NCAA tournament against the Kentucky Wildcats, their first appearance in 26 years. Ingles played professional basketball for five years in Iceland, Argentina, Slovakia, Qatar, Mexico City, and Lebanon.

Coaching runs in the family

Ingles’ father, Kent, has coached high school basketball in Michigan for more than 45 years and is currently the varsity boys’ basketball coach at Big Rapids High School. His sister, Jessica Haist, is the varsity girls’ basketball coach at Big Rapids High School.

The Olivet women’s basketball position caught Ingles eye for a couple of reasons. "First, it [Olivet College] has great leadership and a great vision. It has to start there. Second, I have always wanted to be a head coach in college, and getting to stay close to home was a huge incentive. I’m excited for the possibilities that lie ahead," Ingles said via email.

Senior Katie McKinnon is very fond of her coach early on in practice, "I personally really love his intensity. We always go hard and always get a good sweat in. No one said it was going to be easy, because if it were easy, everyone would be doing it. I also really like his style of play. We are working hard to transition and be the most conditioned team in the MIAA. This is a rebuilding year for him and for us. Just being into a week of practices, you can already see a huge difference in the way we play," McKinnon said.

Playing for life

For Ingles, his vision of the women’s basketball program at Olivet is to the point. "My vision is simple. We need to graduate players, prepare them for life after basketball, and win games. We can’t shy away from wanting to win," Ingles said.

Looking ahead to the upcoming season, maintaining and building upon previous success is a big reason why Shockey brought in Ingles. "We are not really looking to rebuild a program, we are looking to continue the momentum that we have had. So for our first year, it is really important that we don’t take any steps backwards. We need to keep that forward momentum, make the tournament again, and need to do some really good things on the court to make sure that we are making forward progress. We want to keep that going."

Recruiting, improving

Coming into his first season, Ingles has already set out priorities for the year. "We need to worry first about recruiting the correct players for our style. Then we need to develop those players into becoming high level MIAA players. We aren’t concerned with titles at the moment. Progress is a process and we have to embrace that thinking," said Ingles.

The Comets always have room for improvement. "After losing six seniors, mostly starters, left an immediate void in the program. We will need everyone to step their game up in order to succeed. We need to make sure we stay patient, but ready, to take the next step to develop ourselves and the program. Also making sure we all work together as a team to get better every day," McKinnon said of her team’s focus for the season.

"[We as a team need to focus on] communication, staying positive at all times on and off the court, don’t take words personally, and to know your teammates. [Have] patience, good things will come through hard work. ‘Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard.’ " McKinnon said, "We need to have fun, if you’re not having fun, then why are you doing what you are doing? I believe we are getting better every day, on and off the court. ‘Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.’ We have the tools to do well this season, and I cannot wait to see where this journey takes us," McKinnon said.

The Comets’ first contest under Ingles for the 2016-17 campaign is a non-conference matchup at 8 p.m. on Nov. 15 against Wilmington College (Ohio) at Fred Raizk Arena in Wilmington, Ohio.

Notable games for the Comets:


Sat. 19 Wilmington (Ohio) Tournament, Sat. 26, home opener vs. Lourdes University.


Wed. 14, MIAA home opener vs. Albion, Thurs. 29-30, Capital (Ohio) Holiday tournament.


Wed. 11, at Hope College, Sat. 21, vs. Trine University.


Wed. 8, vs. Calvin, Sat.18, regular season finale at Saint Mary’s (indiana)

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