Notre Dame’s Ingelsby introduced as Blue Hens’ new basketball coach

Martin Ingelsby speaks during his introductory press conference on Wednesday after being introduced as Delaware’s new men’s basketball coach. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)

Martin Ingelsby speaks during his introductory press conference on Wednesday after being introduced as Delaware’s new men’s basketball coach. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)

NEWARK — When he told Mike Brey he got the Delaware job, Martin Ingelsby said one of the first things the Notre Dame coach did was invite his former assistant down to Rehoboth to celebrate.

So, yeah, Ingelsby plans on relying on his old boss for advice.

“I told him, ‘Don’t delete my number,’” Ingelsby joked.

The comparisons to Brey will be inevitable for Ingelsby, of course, given that the 37-year-old worked for the popular former Blue Hen coach for the last 13 seasons with the Fighting Irish.

But, at the same time, as he officially began his tenure as the new Delaware men’s head basketball coach on Wednesday, Ingelsby wanted to make it clear that he’s his own man, too.

“I love Coach Brey (but) I’m not Mike Brey,” Ingelsby told reporters. “I’m going to be the best Martin Ingelsby I can.

“I put pressure on myself. This is an opportunity that I’ve worked hard for all my life. I want to win. And I’m coming from a place where we won a lot.”

Brey, for his part, hasn’t minded hyping Ingelsby’s potential as a head coach. The Notre Dame coach led Delaware to a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances (1998, ‘99) in his five seasons with the Hens.

Ingelsby was the starting point guard and co-captain on Brey’s first Notre Dame team.

“To take a line from my favorite Victory March, Martin Ingelsby will ‘Wake Up The Echoes’ at Delaware,” Brey said in a prepared statement. “What a great fit for a great university. Martin is absolutely one of the most gifted young coaches in our profession and the Delaware community and players will love him and his family.

“It strikes a special chord in my heart to have one of my guys back at a place that got me started and is a big part of who I am today. His first matter of business should be to get a place in Rehoboth Beach.”

But, amid all the optimism that comes with Ingelsby’s hiring, is the cold, hard truth that it’s been a rough year for the Hens’ hoop program.

Not only did Delaware go just 7-23 this winter — setting a school record with a 15-game losing streak — and fire 10-year coach Monte’ Ross, but the school also went 67 days without a head coach while it waited to hire an athletic director first.

Of the 51 Division I men’s basketball programs that hired a new coach this year, Delaware was the last one to fill the opening by several weeks.

That delay is also one big reason why the Hens didn’t bring in any high school recruits for the second straight year.

“Relief was the first emotion that hit the locker room,” said center Barnett Harris, who will be a senior next winter. “It was just such a great weight off our shoulders. … There was a lot of confusion, a lot of uncertainty. Guys were getting nervous as we were getting down to the end of the year. We didn’t know who we were going to get as coach, we didn’t know when we were going to get a coach.

“It was just stressful. People were asking us, our families were asking us, ‘What’s going on?’”

“This whole spring has kind of been a disaster,” said sophomore Eric Carter, who missed all season with a knee injury.

That being said, both players are excited by what they’ve heard about Ingelsby. The new coach met with a few of the Hens on Tuesday evening.

“We were jumping around,” said Harris. “The news broke before he was formally announced. We were texting each other. We all were down there, excited, we were cleaning up the locker room, like, ‘I hope Coach likes it.’ … I’m just so thrilled.”

Carter is good friends with Notre Dame player Matt Farrell, working out with him over the summer. Carter just sees how much Farrell has improved since he’s been working with Ingelsby.

“He’s gotten so much better,” saic Carter. “I’m just excited to play for him (Ingelsby).”

Ingelsby said he’s already heard from a long list of people recommending players who are still available. With at least three open scholarships, he expects to bring in some recruits soon.

A native of Berwyn, Pa., Ingelsby has strong ties to the Philadelphia Catholic. He played for his father, Tom, at Archbishop Carroll.

The elder Ingelsby played on the Villanova team that lost to UCLA in the 1971 national championship game. He also spent a combined three seasons in the NBA and ABA.

Tom Ingelsby was on hand at Wednesday’s press conference along with a number of other family members.

“Even as a player, he was fundamentally sound, he played team ball,” Ingelsby said about his son. “He played competitively but he was always looking for the teammate. He had a very high basketball IQ. Even at Notre Dame, he had a pretty good eye for talent, bringing in the players for the way they play.

“I’d say even from a young age I always thought he had the potential to be a head coach.”

The elder Ingelsby said one of the big differences between father and son is that Martin isn’t as quick to show his emotions on the sidelines.

“He’s a little more like his mother,” Tom Ingelsby joked. “I think he’ll do the three things we did when I coached: He’ll make the players fundamentally sound, they’ll play very team oriented and they’ll be very competitive players. Now I may yell to tell them to do that and he might be patting them on the back. But they’ll get there.”

New AD Chrissi Rawak, who was just hired on May 13, said Ingelsby really stood out among the number of coaches who applied for the Delaware job. There were reportedly even other Division I head coaches who were interested.

“I slept really well last night,” quipped Rawak. “The challenging part was that we had a great candidate pool. The easy part was that it was clear to me, as we finished the process, that Martin was the right guy for us. It was so clear.”

Rawak said she noticed that, when the players left the locker room after meeting Ingelsby on Tuesday, they were smiling.

“I called the president (Dennis Assanis) and I said, ‘I feel like we’ve done good,’” she said.

As much as he talked about winning championships, Ingelsby also talked about patience and taking “baby steps” in rebuilding the program.
He knows that job has to start right now, though.

“It’s going to take time but I’m excited to get going,” said Ingelsby. “The one thing I talked to the guys about in the locker room, is we’re going to have a lot of fun. I want those guys smiling, I want them excited to come to the gym to work.

“Things are going to be different — they have to embrace that. I think they need that, they want that. And things are going to be harder. When you go 7-23 last year, things have to change.”

Growing up about 45 minutes away from Newark, Ingelsby is no stranger to Delaware. His family used to spend its summers at Bethany Beach.

Brey actually recruited Ingelsby as a player for Delaware before the youngster chose Notre Dame.

Now he’s come full circle.

“This place has always been a dream job for me,” said Ingelsby. “It’s something that Coach Brey and I have really talked about. I will use him as a resource as much as I can. He was very excited for me. I’m not where I am without Mike Brey.”

 

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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