JOHN WILBERT: It's never been about the wins for Ingomar's Ashley

By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal

INGOMAR – Norris Ashley never thought he’d make it to 1,000 wins, but he did. With last Friday night’s 47-44 win over Potts Camp, the Ingomar coach’s career record now stands at 1,000-464 in 42 seasons of coaching boys basketball.
“I didn’t even know about it until somebody from The Clarion-Ledger called and asked if I was close,” said the 63-year-old coach about approaching the milestone. “It hadn’t even hit my mind until I thought about it two or three years ago. I never thought I’d make it to 1,000.”
He almost didn’t. After having heart surgery the summer before, Ashley seriously considered stepping away from the game after last season, which turned to be an ideal way to go out.
The Falcons’ 2009-10 campaign ended with a 30-7 record and a MHSAA Class 1A state championship – Ashley’s ninth state title as a high school boys and girls basketball coach.
Some might say that Ashley, whose health is a lot better despite two bad knees, only returned this season to win 1,000 games as a boys coach. He was 11 wins shy of reaching 1,000 before the 2010-11 season began.
But that’s not the case.
“I never set goals for numbers of wins,” Ashley said about coaching milestones, which he claims he’s not aware of or pays attention to. “That would be too egotistical. The emphasis shouldn’t be on the coach; it should be on the players.”
After all, it’s the players who are putting the ball through the basket, grabbing the rebounds and defending the other’s team’s players, he pointed out.
The fact is that the state’s all-time winningest coach – when considering boys and girls basketball career victories combined (1,675) – still enjoys coaching. If Ashley was only interested in expanding his career win total and didn’t really have a passion for the sport other than winning games, he wouldn’t have stuck around for the large schools’ games at the 20th Hotbed Classic in New Albany – not after his team got blasted by Durant, 87-40.
And if there’s any reason for Ashley not to pay any attention to his coaching record, it’s a high school basketball coach he once knew of.
“There was a coach who kept his record written on a piece of paper in his billfold,” Ashley said. “He changed his record weekly – he took some of his losses and changed them to wins.”
Ashley clearly didn’t want to be like him.
“It’s never been something that bothered him or he worried about,” said Ashley’s son, Jonathan, who played for his father from 1992-1995 and was an assistant coach on his father’s staff for seven years. “It’s not necessarily about winning every game; it’s about each individual game and the game in its self. It’s about the competition, and it’s never been about the whole bunch (of games).”
Crack research team
If it wasn’t for Jonathan Ashley, then we more than likely wouldn’t know exactly how many wins the elder Ashley has under his belt.
“I gotta give him all the credit for what nobody was crazy enough to do,” Norris Ashley said.
What the Ingomar coach was referring to, was all the hours, days and years Jonathan spent scouring old scorebooks, yearbooks and newspapers to total up his father’s career coaching record.
“It was something I got curious about once I got to Ole Miss (as a student), in 1996-97,” the now 33-year-old Myrtle coach said about his father’s career coaching record. “My dad never had any idea (about his career record), so I kind of started looking into it.
“It took me a couple of years to track it all down.”
So how many years does ol’ Norris have left in him?
“I’m not going to coach a third generation (of players),” joked Ashley, who has recently coached the sons of parents he once coached decades ago. “I got two generations for sure.”
Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572
or john.wilbert@journalinc.com.