With Israel Ingle, hoops are carved into his DNA.
As a four-year-old kid, Israel was performing at halftime of Atlanta Hawks games, dribbling three basketballs the length of the court as part of a family act. His father, Tony, is a former BYU assistant coach who won a Division II NCAA title at Kennesaw State in 2004.
Now Israel, 28, is the third-youngest head coach ever to take a team to the NJCAA tournament in Hutchison, Kan., a tournament that's been going on since World War II. His 26-7 Gordon College Highlanders will take on Columbia College from Tennessee tonight.
Getting Israel to Hutchison didn't come without some drama.
Just over a week ago, while coaching the Highlanders past Middle Georgia and top-seeded Georgia Perimeter to win the Region 13 championship, his wife Candice gave birth to their first child, a baby girl.
He had his parents and her parents all rush to the hospital that week for the birth of little Isabelle. Israel slept on the couch in the hospital room, which was also where the delivery transpired. He scouted opponents on his laptop, rushed back and forth from practices and tried his best to support Candice.
His father, Tony, said the baby was coming — then not coming. It was going to be a boy — then a girl. As he watched Israel try to juggle the job as a coach and the birth of his first child, he quipped, "I don't care if was a St. Bernard, I just wanted the baby to come."
When Candice found out she was pregnant last summer, the due date was March 8, the opening round of the conference tournament. Both were stressed out all during the season.
Gordon beat Waycross on March 6, and that night Candice checked into the hospital, located five miles from their home. Gordon College is about 30 miles from where Israel and Candice live.
"If you saw the way Waycross played defense, you knew why she went into labor," joked Israel to a local reporter. "We beat them by three points, so the game was pretty exciting."
Isabelle was born the day before Gordon defeated Middle Georgia, 79-66, in the semifinals of the conference tournament. Candice came home with Isabelle on March 10, two hours before the conference championship game, a win over top-ranked Perimeter College, 73-60.
"I cut the umbilical cord and, two days later, I cut down the nets. It was a busy week," said Israel.
"It's been crazy for me," said Israel, who attended Orem's Mountain View High. His wife is also from Orem.
"It's been kind of emotional because Hutchison is where my father came to play as a college player in this tournament and blew out his knee, ending his playing career. I've heard a lot about this place, now I'm here taking it in."
It's been quite the tale for Israel. Gordon College hired him after that school abandoned basketball in 1993. When hired in 2007, three days before he graduated from college at 23, Israel had the task of building the program from scratch. Now he has Gordon at the NJCAA Championships for the first time in the school's 50-year history.
Gordon College is where Israel's father Tony coached before going to Alabama-Huntsville, then BYU. Tony Ingle agreed to be an interim head coach after Roger Reid was dismissed in December 1996. He then coached at Kennesaw State, where he is now in athletic administration.
Tony Ingle coached Gordon, a junior college in Barnesville between Atlanta and Macon, from 1985-88, and led the team to a 28-10 record and region runner-up finish his final year there. At the time, his son Israel was 4 years old.Comment on this story
"I couldn't be more proud of Israel, as a coach and as a father. I'm going to Hutchison, driving there from Lindon (Monday) and I can't wait to see the tournament and the place I left a hunk of ligament so many years ago," said Tony.
When Israel returns home to Georgia after the tournament, it will take some time to settle in to his role as a father, just in time to celebrate his first wedding anniversary.
Such is the way of March Madness and the Ingles, who were reminded again this week of the magic of this game.