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The scene at Ingomar’s gym on Sunday afternoon was much like what fans have come to expect over the last 41 years. A good crowd, heated gym and Norris Ashley, off to the side, wiping away sweat with his towel.
Only this time, the long-time coach was not barking out orders to his players, rather it was the community coming out to pay respect to the man who led the school to nine state titles; the one who just a month ago decided to step away from the game after coaching for a total of 43 years.
“All of this is hard to put in words,” Ashley said. “When I originally came here, my old high school coach told me this would be a good place to stay for a year until I found a better place to go. I never found a better place to go.”
Ingomar celebrated Ashley’s career with a retirement reception, giving fans and former players a chance to share their fondest memories with the one who helped make it happen. As those in attendance watched a slideshow, recapping his 41 years at the school, Ashley took it all in, giving valuable time to each person who stood in line to speak with him. Also off to the side was his son, Jonathan, who is preparing to take over for his father.
“I’m glad that Jonathan sees that the Ingomar people are very supportive,” Ashley said. “Ingomar has always supported both academics and athletics, they strive for success and achieves success. I hope it stays that way, where they expect the best out of the kids both in the classroom and on the court and field.”
While reflecting on his time at Ingomar, Ashley noted the people he was most thankful for, his wife, along with former Ingomar principal John Weeden, who first hired Ashley.
“I appreciate having John Weeden as a principal, giving me freedom to do what I wanted. He trusted me, and I trusted him,” he said. “I appreciate my wife’s support over the years. It’s tough being a coach’s wife, because you tend to only hear negative things in the stands. I’ve had great parents and players, and they expected me to do my best, and I expected them to do their best. It all worked out pretty well, I hope.”
As the afternoon came to a close, so did the final chapter of Ashley’s time at Ingomar. As he makes the move from the sidelines to the stands as a fan, he had only one final remark.
“The people of Ingomar trusted me with their children. Hopefully I taught them a little about basketball and maybe a little about living. Hopefully I didn’t disappoint them.”