BIG RAPIDS — Basketball is in the blood of Kent Ingles.
Ingles is currently in his 10th season in charge of the Big Rapids Cardinals varsity boys basketball team. Prior to that, Ingles spent 25 years as varsity boys coach of the Greenville Yellow Jackets.
There has been one constant in the coaching career of Ingles: Winning.
As he did in Greenville, Ingles has the Cardinals program winning basketball games. His Cardinals are currently 11-0 (10-0 in CSAA) after Thursday’s 80-71 league victory at Reed City and ranked 13th in the latest Associated Press Class B basketball poll.
After more than 40 years on the sideline as a junior varsity or varsity coach, Ingles simply said, “It’s still fun.”
Ingles’ final year in Greenville was 2002 — the same year, which son Zach graduated and continued his basketball career in college. Ingles finished his Yellow Jackets career with a record of 307-228.
After a year away from the game, which was spent watching Zach’s college career begin, Ingles took the job in Big Rapids. For a while, winning wasn’t easy.
“I was like the sixth coach in six years,” Ingles said. “When I got there, they didn’t have a youth program, no summer program, no uniforms and no basketballs.”
He wasn’t joking about no uniforms or basketballs, either. The prior coach told the players to take their uniforms and balls with them when the season ended.
“The first five years, within a game or two, we went 35-65,” Ingles said. “The youth program has come up well now.”
Patience and coaching has returned the Cardinals program into winners. A year ago, Big Rapids won its first district title since 1987. They did so with a hard fought 59-57 win over CSAA rival Reed City.
Big Rapids finished the regular season 17-3. Two of the losses came against Reed City, which the Cardinals shared the league title with. Big Rapids also lost the Muskegon Heights (Class B semifinalist) and Sparta in the regional semifinals, who lost to Muskegon Heights in the regional final.
The past four years, the Cardinals have gone 71-9, including a perfect 20-0 in the 2008-09 season.
“We have turned the corner. It’s been a lot of work, but it’s fun,” Ingles said. “The neat thing for me, in addition to the great kids, is my daughter (Jessica Haist) has the girls program (11-0 overall) and they are undefeated, too.”
Ironically, Jessica is the sister-in-law to current Greenville coach Mark Haist.
Zach is a assistant basketball coach at Grand Rapids Community College. Cleary, basketball is in the blood of more than one Ingles.
While undefeated right now, Ingles is expecting to be challenged the rest of this year.
An example was Monday’s game at Lakeview. The Wildcats came out strong and led the Cardinals after the first and second quarters. Lakeview was within four points at the end of the third quarter, but Big Rapids closed strong for a 71-49 win.
“We’re not great this year, but we are resilient,” Ingles said. “There are a couple of good teams in our league and a couple of not so good teams in our league. We are going to be pushed this year.”
Big Rapids will close out the season with a game against Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills. Ingles said his team has a chance to win another district title this year, as well.
“We got one last year, but it’s at our place this year, so we have home court advantage,” Ingles said. “We should be OK.”
And in stride with building a winning program, the future looks good too for the Cardinals.
“I have eight pretty good juniors on the bench and our junior varsity team is going to be OK,” Ingles said.
Big Rapids will host Hesperia on Monday in league play.