The basketball court served as refuge for Jacobs coach Jim Hinkle for 38 seasons, in good times and bad times. Particularly the bad times.
Hinkle's late wife, Barb, was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease in 2003. She passed away at a downstate nursing home in 2010 at the age of 58. Through Barb's final, trying years, Hinkle took solace in continuing to coach the sport he loved.
"Barb used to always say basketball was my mistress," the 70-year old Hinkle said. "Well, after she got so sick I only had one love left. I needed basketball. I really needed it. I really clung to it then.
"Maybe I just don't need it anymore. Maybe I'm kind of past it finally."
Hinkle submitted his letter of resignation to District 300 superintendent Michael Bregy in person Friday, effective at the end of the upcoming 2012-13 season. He also delivered letters to Jacobs principal Ami Engel and athletic director Dan Vosnos.
One of the most affable, self-effacing and quotable coaches in the state, Hinkle enters his final season on the bench with a career record of 527-522 overall, 375-307 at the high school level. He was inducted to the Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame on April 24, 2010, less than a month before Barb died.
A Missouri native, Hinkle intends to use his free time to travel, most frequently to visit his sons, Bryan and Brad, and their families in the St. Louis area.
"Really, in the last three years I've gotten down to St. Louis for 48 hours total, and I've got tons of family down there," he said. "I walked into school on Aug. 6 for meetings and thought, 'Where did the summer go?' I don't want to give up another summer. And this is the last year I'm going to give up Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Jacobs annually travels to Quincy for a tournament that begins on Thanksgiving night. Every December the Golden Eagles host a five-day, 16-team holiday tournament.
"I don't want to be morbid about it, but how many days do I left?" Hinkle said. "I mean, I hope I live to be 100. It's been wonderful and I love coaching and I know I'll miss it, but I ain't going to miss anything else. I'm going to do everything I can."
Hinkle said the original plan was to conclude his coaching career in 2007, when Barb would have retired from teaching. The couple intended to spend every January in Florida and every February in Las Vegas, among other destinations. Barb's illness changed those plans.
Hinkle's advice to younger married couples?
"If you and your wife want to do anything, do it now," he said. "For us, it never came to pass."
The veteran coach said he has a good feeling about the upcoming basketball season, not to mention the state in which he'll leave the program for Jacobs' next coach.
"I'm really looking forward to the season," he said. "I've got a great group of seniors, a great group of kids. And we're loaded for the next few years so someone's going to have a great gig. The group that's going to be juniors only lost one conference game in the last two years.
"I want it to be that way because I want the next coach to be successful. Heck, that way I can go to state with them in two years, sit in the stands and yell, 'Damn, we finally got rid of Hinkle and went somewhere!'"