ALGONQUIN – Sometimes Jim Hinkle curses his mistress for her insatiable appetite for attention.
She is relentless, overtaking every thought almost every hour of every day. It has been this way ever since Hinkle can remember. Even when he was married to Barb, the love of his life, his mistress was there, begging for his consideration.
Hinkle’s mistress is basketball. Together, they have had a fantastic ride for 50 years, and when it’s over, there will be countless memories.
The 71-year-old Jacobs boys basketball coach will retire after this season, which will include at least four more games, all at home.
“No question I’ll miss it,” he says. “But, at the same time, I don’t have any reservations about saying, ‘This is my time.’ I’m not second-guessing that at all.”
HInkle – or as people around Jacobs call him “Hink” – is outspoken, funny and old-school. His quick wit is appreciated by coaching peers, colleagues, assistant coaches, players and especially reporters. Next year, he will continue at Jacobs as attendance specialist, checking up on students who are tardy or missing class. Then, at 3 p.m., he will leave. He knows it will seem strange departing from school when there still is sunshine.
Hinkle was set to leave with Barb in 2007. They were going to retire to travel and just enjoy one another’s company. But Barb was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at 54 and died in 2010 at age 58. When Barb’s health deteriorated to the point that she was moved downstate to a nursing home near her mother, Dorothy Lee, Hinkle turned to basketball for salvation.
“He needed it so badly after Barb passed,” said Tom Peterson, Hinkle’s assistant coach for the past seven seasons. “It was his second love, and his first love was gone.”
Hinkle says his favorite thing to do is coach and win, and his second-favorite thing is to coach and lose.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute of it for 49 years,” Hinkle said. “If you’re not having fun, I don’t know what you’re doing it for.”
Hinkle bought T-shirts over the summer that read “70” on the front, and “If we score our coach’s age and you score your coach’s age, we win,” on the back. He told his team every time it scored 70 points, he would take the players to Buffalo Wild Wings across Randall Road from the high school.
“I looked it up and we only scored 70 four times in the three previous years,” Hinkle said. “I thought, ‘I’ll give the kids a big goal and we’ll have fun with it.’ Shoot! They’ve already done it four times, and it costs me about $400 every time.”
Golden Eagles forward Will Schwerdtmann said the players appreciated the food offer and took advantage.
“We knew we were going to be able to run on teams because that’s what we’ve done in the past with this group,” Schwerdtmann said. “It’s his last year, and he’s trying to make the best out of it and have fun with it.”
In one game, the Eagles would have hit 70, but referee Jim Dinkheller called traveling on the Jacobs player who hit the buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end, saving Hinkle another big tab.
HInkle is not certain what he will do with all his free time. He will spend time at Arlington Park and at the Grand Victoria Casino. He will occupy some time writing on the “coachhink” blog he started last month.
His first blog entry was a priceless gem about a game his teams used to play called “Free Throw Strip.” It was just like it sounds. If you missed a free throw, you removed an item of clothing. Hinkle said players would come in wearing all kinds of extra clothing. The first to run out of clothes ran a lap around the gym to cheers from the rest of the team.
Hinkle estimates that through the years he has been on a school bus somewhere close to 2,000 times. He will not miss those rides at all.
“I will never get on a school bus again in my life,” he said.
See, Jacobs’ schedule has three more home games, starting with today’s 7 p.m. tipoff with Prairie Ridge, which will be played in the old gymnasium at Hinkle’s request. There are two more home dates next week, then Jacobs hosts a Class 4A regional that starts Feb. 25.
If the third-seeded Eagles can pull off an upset and win their own regional, Hinkle would have to board that bus for another time.
“I’d be perfectly happy on that bus,” he said. “I’m hoping for that storybook ending, you know?”
• Northwest Herald senior sports reporter Joe Stevenson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @NWH_JoePrepZone.