COLUMBIA CITY — Columbia City boys basketball fans saw something they’d never seen before during the Columbia City/Whitko game last week — Derek Hinen on the visitor’s bench.
Hinen, a 2013 graduate, is Columbia City High School’s fourth all-time leading scorer with 1,099 points, and is now an assistant coach for the Wildcats, Columbia City’s rival, under the helm of head coach Eli Henson.
“It did feel a little bit different, but mostly because I wasn’t playing,” Hinen said. “I think as a coach you get to take in the atmosphere a bit more, during the warmups. After that, though, you are completely engaged into the game, just like the players.”
Hinen helped lead the Eagles to a semi-state appearance in 2011, along with teammate Daniel Woll, who is the junior varsity coach for CCHS. Their fellow teammate, Drew Benedict, is now in his third season as assistant coach for Huntington University, where all three men attended college. Hinen went on to finish his career at the University of St. Francis.
Henson is twice blessed, as he also has Whitko’s all-time leading scorer, Logan Irwin, as his other varsity assistant coach. Irwin’s scoring record is impressive, at 2,230 career points. He graduated in 2012 — Hinen and Irwin played many games against each other.
“We have two of the best assistants you’re going to find,” Henson said. “They have so much experience and so much knowledge of the game.”
When Hinen and Irwin talk, Whitko’s players listen.
“Why wouldn’t they? If they’re telling you something, they know exactly what they’re talking about,” Henson said. “Those kids respect them.”
During timeouts, Henson says the assistants nearly talk more than he does, “which is great.”
“Logan is awesome to coach with,” Hinen said. “We didn’t always play the same style, so I think we both have a good persepctive on the game.”
Hinen also had his first year as boys tennis coach at Whitko. He was the No. 1 singles player at CCHS. Hinen teaches special education at Whitko.
Transitioning from player to coach has been “different” for Hinen.
“Coaching, you focus on what everyone is doing more and how the pieces fit together,” Hinen said. “Coach Henson and Irwin have both made the transition easy and helped me along the way. Coach Henson has allowed me to develop as a coach and has let me share my experiences and knowledge with the players.”