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Tony Ingle, who coached BYU basketball in 1996-97, returns to Utah for a game at UVSC tonight.

OREM — It has taken Tony Ingle seven years to return to Utah with a basketball team after walking the plank for BYU as interim coach during that disastrous 1-25 season, a transition between Roger Reid and Steve Cleveland.

But the joke-cracking native of Georgia is now back leading his Kennesaw State Owls against Utah Valley State College tonight in the McKay Center at 7:05 p.m.

"I love Utah and I'm looking forward to bringing my team there for a few days," Ingle said. "Who knows, maybe some of my guys will return to Georgia with a different accent."

One special part of Ingle's return is his first glimpse at his grandchild Treyce, who was born in Utah County in October.

"I haven't been able to see that grandbaby, and I'm looking forward to it," Ingle said.

Ingle's Owls are 1-2 on the season after a second-place finish in Orlando Disney Classic in Florida. The host Wolverines are 0-1 after an opening 84-75 loss to Idaho State.

"We're a little banged up right now. We're hurting," Ingle said. "I know, I sound like the Lou Holtz of men's basketball, but we are anxious to get out there and play."

Ingle arrived with his squad on Wednesday with plans to take players on a tour of Temple Square and other Utah sites.

The Owls are led by 6-foot-5 point guard Terrance Hill, who earned Peach Belt Conference Player of the Year honors with a nickname "Wings" because of his jumping ability.

Ingle has never publicly aired his feelings over leaving BYU after taking a bullet for the administration following the Dec. 17, 1996, date Reid got fired. All those BYU losses in 1997 go on Ingle's official career coaching record. He was not given a real look by BYU to make it a permanent job, and that hurt the 50-year-old coach. He admits BYU never led him to believe he'd be hired, but he always has explained it's nice to be wanted.

Now Ingle is back to coaching, his lifelong passion.

"I love it. I love it. Give me more of it," Ingle said, singing lyrics of a song.

"I really enjoy making decisions instead of taking suggestions." Ingle is one of a kind, according to Orem's Chris Poulos, who picked up Ingle's cause following his stint as BYU's interim coach.

"He is a man of great character and charm and a man who deserves a good break. I will always stand up for the guy. He is entertaining, fun and he is a very good basketball coach," Poulos said.

In Ingle's first year, his Owls went 11-15 overall and 6-10 in league play.

In 2002 the team finished 20-10, and KSU made it to the championship game of the Peach Belt Conference Tournament. Prior to that success no KSU basketball team had made it to the semifinals of the tournament since embarking in NCAA Division II status in 1995.

Ingle left BYU after his experiment as interim coach in 1997 and worked as a color commentator for Mountain West Conference basketball. He also scouted for the Utah Jazz while pitching several businesses, doing some public speaking and even selling carpet before getting back in coaching at KSU.

His wife Jeanee works as the business manager for the KSU athletic department. Their children include Eliot (28), Sunshine (25), Golden (22), Tony, Jr. (21) and Israel (19). The Ingles have three grandchildren.

Eliot is teaching business at Cherokee High, where his dad once coached championship basketball. His only daughter, Sunshine, lives in Lindon; Golden, a former Timpanogos High star is serving an LDS mission in Denver; Tony, Jr., works as his dad's team manager; and Israel plays for the Owls.