By Wil Crews
SMITHS STATION —
The Smiths Station High School Panthers have a new leader in one of their packs.
Armon Ingersoll was recently announced as the head coach of the varsity Panther boys’ basketball team. He takes over from coach Steven Davis, who took a job with the Lee County School System this summer.
Davis helmed the Panthers for 11 seasons, from 2012 to 2022, reaching a pinnacle last season as Smiths Station won its very first basketball 7A area title — and progressed to the quarterfinals of the 7A state tournament. Prior to his stint at Smiths Station, Davis coached Lanett for four successful seasons from 2008-11.
“Being able to win the area last year, what that does is allows us to have a target on our back,” Ingersoll said. “Now, as defending champions, we have to go out there and defend like champions. Teams each night are going to bring their A-game to Smiths Station. We are being hunted, which is a good thing. Our players must know that, understand that and live with that mindset. Really, that is a challenge that I want our guys to take on to elevate their game. You have to raise your game to another level.”
Last season was Ingersoll’s first year on Davis’s staff. Prior to that he spent 11 seasons learning under the tutelage of former Central Phenix City coach and Alabama Sports Hall of Famer Bobby Wright.
“It means a lot,” Ingersoll said about the opportunity to be head coach. “I’ve been waiting for this opportunity as an assistant for 13 years. I didn’t take those years for granted. I kind of soaked up everything like a sponge.”
Now, Ingersoll is the man tasked with taking over the heavy moniker Davis leaves behind. According to the new skipper, he expects the Panthers to build off their previous success — and push past it.
“I want to give a big shout-out to coach Davis,” Ingersoll said. “Knowing the job he has done in past years to get the program to where it is now, we want to build and add to that.”
Improving on last year’s standard will be no easy feat for Ingersoll and his players. The Panthers lost six seniors from last season’s team, leaving the team with less athleticism and experience for the 2022 campaign.
“That’s a lot of athleticism that has left from last year,” Ingersoll said. “But this year I think we can still do some good things.”
Despite the new-look roster, in terms of play style, Ingersoll said that he will continue in the vein of Davis’s teams, keeping the motto “Grit Station” as the team’s core pillar.
“I think we are going to continue the same style of play,” Ingersoll said. “We are want to be scrappy.”
Ingersoll said he will still push this year’s team to reach its physical peak, but wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the half-court offense that proves to be a strength for the 2022 squad.
“Our guys are going to have to play smarter basketball,” he said. “Sometimes we may have to play a half-court-type game as opposed to last year where we got our guys out in space because they had the ability to create. We can carry over a little, but much of that is lost. The group that is coming in is a talented group that can take on that challenge of playing a similar style. If we have to play more of a half-court game, we can do that as well.”
Reflecting on the postseason run to the Elite Eight of last year’s state tournament, Ingersoll understands the newfound pressure of expectations that the program is facing. Still, however, he has high hopes for 2022.
“The standard is high,” Ingersoll said. “We want to meet that standard and exceed that standard and keep this thing going.”