After a nearly three-year battle with cancer, Post Falls football coach Jeff Hinz died Wednesday evening. He was 45.
It was three years ago this Thanksgiving that Hinz began to discover he had a serious health issue. He was walking around his home when his left femur snapped in half.
After arriving at the hospital, doctors performed initial tests to determine how his leg broke. They discovered a plum-sized tumor where the bone had snapped.
It was later determined that he had a form of adenocarcinoma. It’s a smoker’s-related cancer, but he was never a smoker.
Initial treatments showed promise. But about a year ago, doctors discovered that cancer had spread to his spinal fluid. This spring doctors found about eight tumors in his brain.
A little more than a week ago, Hinz suffered a massive stroke. After being in the hospital for a week and showing no progress, he was moved to a hospice facility Tuesday. His family was with him when he died.
“The family wishes to thank all of you who have supported through visits, meals, fund raisers, good conversations, prayers and love over the past few years,” the family said Thursday in a Facebook post. “He passed away knowing how many people truly cared for him.”
A Coeur d’Alene High graduate, Hinz spent 12 seasons as the Trojans’ head coach with a 52-58 record. His 2014 team made the state playoffs for the first time in his career.
Hinz was a gentle soul whose impact with his players transcended wins and losses.
The coaches he went against in the Inland Empire League rallied around him the last three years.
“He’s always been a friend,” said Van Troxel, who retired as head coach at Lake City last winter. “We’ve always had such a great relationship. He always made it fun and challenging to compete against all the time.”
Troxel said the test of a person is often found in looking at one’s children.
“You could watch what he did with his children. Kids are a direct reflection of their parents and he had great kids,” Troxel said. “He did a wonderful job with them.”
Hinz is survived by his wife, Natalie, and three children – Wednesday, Parker and Journey.
Coeur d’Alene coach Shawn Amos also was a close friend. He also had a bout with cancer about the same time Hinz found out about his.
Amos, who was cleared of cancer after a year, remained close with Hinz throughout his battle. Amos helped coordinate fundraisers for Hinz through CdA events.
“He definitely was a guy who impacted that community and impacted a lot of high school kids’ lives in a positive way,” Amos said. “He was a friend, colleague, and we shared the cancer journey. We used each other as a support system. We drew closer the last couple of years.”
Hinz took a leave of absence last spring as the Trojans’ coach, hoping to return in a year. He was replaced by Blaine Bennett.
Hinz stepped away because he felt he couldn’t lead the program in the capacity he desired. He missed several games last fall because of trips to the hospital and various treatments.
The IEL coaches honored him by naming the Post Falls coaching staff as the coach of the year.
“You knew the time eventually was going to come, but he was a warrior,” Post Falls athletic director Craig Christensen said. “He battled to the end.”
Christensen said Hinz’ impact at Post Falls was easy to measure.
“The most important thing – take away the wins and losses – was his effect on kids, peers and his family,” Christensen said. “Everybody he touched knew he was a man of character. That’s what we call coaching significance. He was preparing kids for life.”
People expressed thoughts of condolence to the Hinz family on Twitter and Facebook on Thursday.
Funeral arrangements are pending. The family said it would post information on its “Tackle Cancer with Coach Hinz” page.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.