Ryan Dyer, a Dalton native and Northwest Whitfield High School alumnus who is now the athletic director and assistant principal at North Paulding High School, was particularly gratified to have three coaches with deep Dalton ties on his Zoom virtual clinic this spring.
Tony Ingle, who played and coached at Dalton State College; Steve Prohm, Iowa State University's head men's basketball coach and a Northwest Whitfield High School alumnus; and Sam Purcell, the associate head coach for the University of Louisville's women's basketball team and a Southeast Whitfield High School graduate, were among the speakers for the virtual clinic.
"It was really cool to see them and their connections with Dalton," Dyer said. "What a great sports town that is."
The work ethic he observed here helped launch his career in athletics, first as an athlete at Northwest Whitfield, then as a coach, and now as an administrator, he said. "You learn more from what you observe than what you see," and the hard work he saw from his father and so many other inspired him.
Much of his family still resides in the area, he added, noting Dalton is "a blue-collar town."
While "playing deep in the state tournament and" burying nine three-pointers in a game stand out as memories from his Bruins career, nothing can match meeting his wife, Candice, at Northwest Whitfield, Dyer said. "She's the rock behind all this."
For Purcell, growing up in this region "instilled a work ethic in me" that's earned him coaching positions across the country, including his current role at Louisville, which concluded its 2019-20 season at 28-4 before the rest of the campaign was canceled due to the pandemic, he said. "I have a true love and appreciation for where I was raised."
Purcell's father worked in the carpet industry, and the family relocated to Whitfield County when Sam was in the third grade. He started his high school career at Northwest but transferred to Southeast, from which he graduated in 1998, and it was during high school that he and Dyer became friends.
"I used to pick (Dyer) up for breakfast club workouts at 6:30 a.m., and we lived in Varnell, so you can imagine how early we had to get up to drive all the way across the county to Southeast," he said with a chuckle. "I loved the game of basketball."
Purcell's entree into basketball coaching came as a video coordinator at Auburn University, and the salary was so meager, he had to work two other jobs, but he was committed to a career in the game, he said. In his winding career, he's gone to places "no one else wanted to go, but I wouldn't have it any other way."
"Go to a place, and make it yours," he advised. "Roll your sleeves up, and get to work, because that's what Dalton people do."
Growing up here, Purcell surrounded himself with positive people he could learn from, and he listened with "open ears," he said. "People here invested in me, and I'm so thankful and grateful."
Ingle likewise "listened to and respected adults" in this area, because he saw so many flourish after "starting from nothing," he said. "I always wanted my hometown to be proud of me, and Dalton is in my DNA."
From his father, who worked in a cotton mill, Ingle learned "how to work," and from his mother, he "learned how to love," he said. His Dalton coaches "taught me discipline, basketball, and how to stay on the right track."
"Dalton has been everything to me, (and) I've been blessed," said Ingle, who guided the Dalton State men's team to the NAIA national championship in 2015, the same year he was NAIA's coach of the year. "That's the truth."
For Ingle, Dalton is truly his hometown, and "for me, home is an acronym (for) 'Heaven on my Earth,'" he said. "When I'm in Dalton, I'm in heaven."