Hinz: Much more than a football coach

July 29, 2016

Hinz: Much more than a football coach
Hinz: Much more than a football coach
Hinz: Much more than a football coach

THE FRONT ROW WITH MARK NELKE: Thursday, July 28, 2016

Hinz: Much more than a football coach

Posted: Thursday, July 28, 2016 12:00 am

Asked to share their memories of Jeff Hinz, those who knew him were more apt to talk about him not so much as a football coach, but as a wonderful person who just happened to coach football.

“The thing about Jeff, which makes him super special, is that Jeff always treated people according to that Golden Rule — he treated people unbelievably well, it didn’t matter who you were,” recalled Dennis Amende, who has coached football at various levels at Post Falls High since 1990. “That’s one of the things that characterized him to me was just how well he treated people. And he had millions of friends. He was a hard worker, advocate for kids … he just treated everybody so well.”

Hinz, 45, died last Wednesday after battling non-smoker’s lung cancer for nearly three years.

The memorial service for Hinz, head football coach at Post Falls High the past 11 years, is scheduled for Friday at 7 p.m. at the Post Falls High football field. A celebration of life will follow at the Greyhound Park and Event Center in Post Falls.

HINZ, a 1989 Coeur d’Alene High grad, came to Post Falls shortly after graduating from the University of Idaho in 1994. He coached and taught in the Post Falls School District for 22 years.

He worked his way up the food chain as a football coach, coaching freshmen and junior varsity and as a varsity assistant under head coaches Jerry Lee and Jeff Choate. Hinz succeeded Lee as the Trojans’ head coach following the 2004 season.

“And when he got his shot (as head coach), he kinda took the ball and ran full-speed with it,” Amende said. “He was a student of the game, and a real player’s coach … doing things for kids all the time. That’s how he saw his job, anyway.”

Hinz was one of the coaches instrumental in the formation of the Border League Camp, a summer football camp for bigger schools in North Idaho and eastern Washington, which gave area players more reps — and was closer to home than other team camps.

Hinz was part of a group of coaches at Post Falls that had coached together for years — Amende, Wade Quesnell, Mike Blowers, and guys like Lee and Jack Foster and Steve Long back in the day.

“In those days, Post Falls was a lot smaller (as a high school) ... there wasn’t a lot of us,” said Amende, who also coaches wrestling and track and field. “We were a little bit tighter, as a group back then, in the early 90s. We had a single lunch, and we’d all eat lunch together … and the coaches were tight, because we’d coached a lot of years together. We were buddies, and took care of each other.”

UNDER HINZ, Amende was the head junior varsity coach, and last year he was the head freshman coach when Mick Zeller, who was the freshman coach, ran the JV team so he could coach his son. Amende was also a varsity assistant under Lee and Choate.

“In addition to being a player’s coach, he was also a coach’s coach,” Amende said of Hinz. “He took care of his guys. Everybody had a say in what was going on, and Jeff might not decide to do it. He was going to do it his way, but he would certainly listen to everybody. He was just good at what he did, and he treated people so well — people would go an extra mile for Jeff. And people admired him for that.”

Many people spoke of how he fought so hard for so long against the disease, the courage he showed and the inspiration he exuded.

“He’d ask you how you were doing, and he’d look you in the eyes and listen to you,” Amende recalled. “A lot of people ask you and they look around … but he was genuinely interested in you and yours.

“What the kids are going to remember is what a quality guy he was, and as role model for these young men, and how to treat people … that’s the legacy, from my perspective. When I think of Jeff, I just think of such a quality guy.

“I think most people that know him believe that he’s just a quality dude.”

IN 2014, Hinz guided the Trojans to the state football playoffs for the first time since 2004 — and for the first time as a 5A school — with a wild 37-36 victory over Coeur d’Alene in the regular season finale at Post Falls. Last fall, it what would become Hinz’s final game as coach, Post Falls wrapped up its season with a 24-21 victory at Coeur d’Alene.

Coeur d’Alene has been one of the top teams in the state for the past decade, but that didn’t see to faze Post Falls. In 11 meetings with the Vikings with Hinz as head coach, the Trojans won five of them.

“He did an exceptional job getting his guys ready to play,” said Coeur d’Alene High coach Shawn Amos, who has been the Vikings’ coach since 1997. “It was and is a good rivalry game for us. I think they looked forward to that game, and it showed.”

WHEN THE words first hit social media some three years ago — “Pray for Hinz” — there was justifiably reason for concern.

That concern was followed by the diagnosis — he had a form of lung cancer.

Only problem — he never smoked.

But cancer apparently doesn’t care about that.

Still, he fought the good fight, starting with the broken leg that tipped the doctors off to the disease. He arranged his chemo treatement schedule as to miss as little football as possible. He would try his best to make it to the game, then deal with the sickness over the weekend.

Even just a few months before he would leave us, even after another medical setback, you would check up on him and he would continue to sound optimistic — he was just taking a little break from coaching, that’s all, but he would be back, he said.

And you believed him. You thought the not-so-old football coach had one more comeback in him, and that would be the story you’d get to write.

But there’s a reason the word “cancer” is often followed by the word “sucks.” The disease plays no favorites; it takes the good people from us as well.

Mark Nelke is sports editor of The Press. He can be reached at 664-8176, Ext. 2019, or via email at mnelke@cdapress.com. Follow him on Twitter@CdAPressSports.