KENT CITY, Mich. (WOOD) — Kent City coach David Ingles is known in West Michigan basketball circles for his choice of colorful pants on game nights.
“It started out as a bet I lost,” he said, laughing.
He’s also known for his knowledge of the game.
“He’s a high energetic person,” senior guard Eli Carlson said. “The love of the game just oozes off of him. He’s a great coach. The best I’ve ever had. We love him.”
Like many coaches, Ingles’ career on the sidelines began as a player when he was a kid.
“I’ve been in a gym since I can walk,” Ingles said. “I’ve had a ball in my hand forever. I’d even be out in the snow shooting.”
He was a two-time all-state selection at Lakeview High School and earned a scholarship to Cornerstone University. He was in line for a starting spot after his freshman season, but like so many good athletes, an injury derailed his future on the court.
“After a practice, I’d have to go to my dorm room and lay down,” Ingles said. “Getting up the next day was almost impossible.”
Ingles had a bulging disc in his back. It eventually forced him to the sidelines for good. While he tried to heal physically, he poured his life into coaching. Along that journey, he met his wife Pam. Their daughter Marleigh was born in 2007.
In 2012, as the head coach and dean of students at Muskegon Catholic Central, Ingles helped guide the Crusaders through a Cinderella run to the state final four.
“I had made it. That’s the mecca of high school basketball,” Ingles said. “If I’m going to coach high school, then I’m going to get to the Breslin (Center).”
But all the while, his back was getting worse. The bulging disc ruptured. Surgery, pain medication and physical therapy were not helping.
Ingles could not keep a full-time job. Over time, it wasn’t just pain in his back he was fighting.
“When they (Pam and Marleigh) weren’t home, I’d just … sit on the couch for hours in the dark,” Ingles said. “I’d walk circles around the house for hours. Once you start doing that, your thoughts start snowballing in the wrong direction. You start going from, ‘Man, it’s bad enough I can’t go full-time,’ to ‘Not only am I not bringing in income, I’m costing the family money because I have to go to the doctors all the time and to physical therapy.'”
But he didn’t let anyone know how difficult things were getting.
“Huge contrast. You see the very outgoing, talkative” person in public, Pam Ingles said. “Nobody knows he’s dealing with this out in the general public.”
She said her husband told her that he was exhausted from putting on a front that everything was fine. He would come home so physically and emotionally drained that he didn’t want to do anything.
“It was, for lack of a better term, almost like a hermit,” Pam Ingles said. “He didn’t want to do anything except sit there.”
There were two exceptions. One, of course, was basketball. 2017 was David Ingles’ third year coaching at Kent City. His other passion is hunting.
One day just before the basketball season started, he told his wife he was going out to the field that was his usual hunting spot.
“I’m sitting at home alone,” Ingles said. “I had been sitting there all day with those thoughts in my head. I texted my wife and said, ‘Look, I’m going hunting.'”
He wasn’t actually planning to hunt. It was the first time he had serious thoughts about suicide.
He took 24 Hour News 8 back to where he went that day.
“I was ready to make the ultimate commitment to just not be here anymore,” Ingles said, sitting in his car. “I had already made the decision of what I was going to do and how I was going to do it.”
Moments before he was going to go to the back of the car to get his gun, his phone rang.
“It startled me,” Ingles said. “It scared me because I was zoned out. It was a buddy just calling to see how I was doing. It woke me up. It basically saved me.”
He went to see a counselor.
Just a couple of weeks later, at home, his depression reached its most difficult point. He called his wife and told her he needed her. When she got home, she said, she barely recognized him.
“When he turned around, it was just pale,” Pam Ingles recalled. “There was nothing there. He just broke down.”
“To think that I let myself get to the point where I didn’t want to be here anymore is tough,” David Ingles said with a long pause and tear in his eye. “To think you’d miss out on some of the things you’d miss out on.”
Like watching his daughter Marleigh, 12, in a play just a few weeks ago.
“To think I wouldn’t have been able to see that or for her to not see me there, it’s tough. But when you’re in the state I was in, that never even crossed my mind,” Ingles said. “It blows my mind that I wouldn’t think about that. That’s why it’s so important you talk to someone.”
As this was all unfolding, something special was happening with his basketball team.
“Thank goodness the basketball season was amazing last year,” Pam Ingles said. “That was huge.”
Kent City was embarking on a journey to perfection. The Eagles finished the regular season 20-0.
Thanks in large part to that record, The Local Sports Journal in Muskegon County did a feature on Ingles’ coaching career. He decided to tell everything, including about his back and his bouts with depression.
“Finally telling people at the end of last season has been a great relief to me,” Ingles said.
“He was very courageous in opening up to us all,” senior John Meek said. “Now he’s using that for a positive.”
That positive is public speaking. Ingles has already been asked to speak to schools, teams and students across West Michigan. It helps him with a battle he may always fight.
As Ingles walked through the field where just a year ago he thought about suicide, he was focused on how many positive things have happened since then.
“I believe I’m in a lot better place than I was,” Ingles said. “You can’t always carry the load. You have to ask for help. We ask for help all the time for things, but when it comes to something really important like your life, you tend to keep quiet. You can’t do that. That’s what I’m trying to do when I’m talking to people is share my story and get them to open up.”
It saved his life. It may just save another.
Ingles has a website you can use to contact him if you need to talk: CoachInglesTalks.com.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached any time at 1.800.273.8255.