Jacobs coach Jim Hinkle reacts near the end of the game against Dundee-Crown in the Class 4A Jacobs regional Wednesday.
John Starks | Staff Photographer
Every night before supper, a then 14-year-old Jim Hinkle had one job: to field 100-straight groundballs without an error before he could eat back in Canton, Mo.
One night while hitting grounders to him, Hinkles father asked a young Hink what he would be doing in 10 years.
Well, Ill be playing pro baseball, Hinkle told his father, who after two more grounders, asked, whats your second choice?
Hinkle responded: Well, Id like to coach. Id like to coach.
He started out as a Little League coach in the mid 1950s. Eventually, he managed his way onto the basketball court in Illinois. And after 57 years, the dream has come to an end as top-seeded Crystal Lake Central ousted his Golden Eagles 65-58 to win the Class 4A Jacobs boys basketball regional championship in Algonquin Friday night.
The Tigers proved to be better equipped inside, outside, in transition and on defense, concluding an IBCA Hall of Fame coaching career in the process.
It wasnt like Hinkles squad let one of the best teams in the Fox Valley have the title. Although CL Centrals outside shooting, rebounding and transitional play put Jacobs in holes throughout, the Golden Eagles (18-15) hung around on clutch shots by Will Schwerdtmann, Patrick Nerja and Ryan Billings.
Jacobs managed to cut Centrals 11-point lead to 5 in a 6-point, 30-second swing off 2 steals with 4:27 remaining in the fourth and for a second, it looked as if Hinkle had the Basketball gods in his back pocket while Jacobs fan section shouted, its not over! Its not over! Its not over!
Eventually, Central would avert the crisis and conclude matters with a 6-0 run the following 3 minutes. And just like that, Hinkles decision last August was official.
Its over, its over, said the 71-year-old coach, who collected himself for a few seconds, then talked about what he would miss. Relationships with the kids, relationships with the other coaches. It was just so much fun after school to go down to practice and see all these smiling faces everyday and come out and bust their tails everyday and try to get better and try to become a team.
After 49 years Im really, Im really worried about me. I dont know what Im going to do. If someone said today, are you going to quit this year? Id say, Oh no, Im enjoying this too much. But I know its the right decision. Im comfortable with it. Right now I wish I could do it another 50 years but come summer, I dont want to be in this (darn) gym! Im sorry. I wanna have a couple summers in my life, and hopefully itll be a whole bunch of them.
Assistant coach Tom Peterson had some ideas, aside from the fact Hinkle will be poolside.
Were going to go to games and yell at referees, second guess coaches, Peterson said jokingly. Were going to be parents. Probably go to Vegas with him, do some gambling, I think hes going to piggy back with his family down in St. Louis which is nice.
Whatever Hinkle does, hell look back at his career and notice a basketball record of 545-537, 393-322 at the high school level and 138-88 at Jacobs, Hell look back at what could have been his fifth regional. Hell look back at the memories from the past 50 years and the players whove come through his system.
Hes a tremendous coach, said Chrishawn Orange, who will always remember Hinkles motto of being on-time. Thats why hes in the hall of fame, I love him, man.
Hinkle also passed the torch to Centrals Rich Czeslawski, who he believes has what it takes to win to mimic the career he had.
Its nice to pass the mantle, so to speak, to guys like Rich, said Hinkle. Weve got so many of them in the area and Rich is at the top of the heap. So if I lose to someone, I couldnt have picked a better man.
Hinkle stayed his typical form at the end of the bench throughout in his black suit jacket, purple shirt, white tie, arms crossed, sometimes expressionless. Hed react in disgust with a head jerk after a Central 3-pointer or to a missed call but pump his fists and clap when Jacobs would cut the lead. But when the clock ticked down to the final seconds and both student sections chimed in with Thank you, Jim, even Crystal Lake Central, which displayed orange signs with Hinkles retirement party, showed class and you could see the realization across his face.
Theres no next year with me, not with basketball and I know I can verbalize that, I cant feel it right now. And I will, said Hinkle.
I chase down the kids who cut classes. Thats my job. The ones who cut, get in trouble, you know what they usually say after I say, hey, you have detention every Tuesday after school? Thank you Hinkle.
Maybe we can all be thankful for that one night in Canton as well.
Thank you, Jim.