Fate demolished Jim Hinkle’s original master plan.
That plan called for Hinkle and his wife, Barb, to retire in 2007 and ride off into the sunset, so to speak.
But in 2003, they were hit with one of life’s harshest cruelties – Barb was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Her health deteriorated, and eventually she was moved to southern Illinois in a nursing home closer to her mother. She died May 8, 2010 at 58.
In the darkest of times, Hinkle found solace coaching Jacobs boys basketball team. It was his release. It was his reason for being.
“I couldn’t let it go,” Hinkle said. “I”m ready to let it go now.”
The 70-year-old coach sent a letter Friday with his intentions to District 300 superintendent Michael Bregy, Jacobs principal Ami Engel and athletic director Dan Vosnos Friday, as well as media outlets. Hinkle stated he will stay through the 2012-13 basketball season and then retire from coaching.
“When [Barb] got ill, I clung to basketball,” Hinkle said. “It was the only thing I had.”
Ironically, Hinkle had some of his best teams, led by Northwest Herald two-time Player of the Year Johnny Moran, when Barb’s health was failing. Through it all, he kept his sense of humor and remained the quote machine he had always been.
After most games, questions are not required. Hinkle cracks both wise and philosophically about his team and life. He’s a sports writer’s dream.
Eventually, the year-long cycle that basketball has become took its toll. Hinkle realized he had little family time at Thanksgiving (when the Golden Eagles are in the Quincy Tournament) and at Christmas (when they host their own).
The summer schedule is equally demanding, which cut into more time he could have been spending with his sons, Bryan and Brad.
“I have a 3-year-old [grandson] named after me and I’ve seen him once,” said Hinkle, who is 527-522 in 38 seasons as a head coach, 375-307 in 25 years at the high school level. “It just seems like this is good. I feel like everything’s good. I feel right about it.”
Hinkle spoke to his sons. He spoke to his doctor, who urged him to stay with coaching back when Barb was ill.
“I don’t want to give up any more summers,” Hinkle said. “We went back to get ready for school this week and I though, ‘Where’d that summer go?’ And ‘How many more do I have left?’ ”
Fortunately, we get one more season of Hinkle’s quips. The Jim Hinkle Farewell Tour should be a hoot. Already, he’s poking fun at himself with T-shirts his team wore this summer that had “70” on the front, and “If we score our coach’s age and you score your coach’s age, we win!” on the back.
In his letter to the administrators, Hinkle mentioned, “If this were a storybook, we will win the [Fox Valley Conference], the regional and go to state.” Whatever happens, Hinkle will enjoy another year on the bench with his players.
And the day school is out next May, Hinkle knows exactly where he will head, across Randall Road from Jacobs to Lifetime Fitness.
“I’m going to go swimming the day school’s out,” he said, “not to a basketball camp.”
• Joe Stevenson is the senior sports writer for the Northwest Herald. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @nwh_JoePrepZone.