Shepherd gives Starkey his day

December 22, 2003|by MARK KELLER

It's hard to believe that 15 years have passed since Bob Starkey last coached the Shepherd College men's basketball team.

It's harder to believe that it took the school 15 years to honor the man who led the program to unprecedented success.

Shepherd finally got around to giving its winningest coach his due Saturday, inviting former players back to the campus for Bob Starkey Day and presenting Starkey with a plaque in recognition of his outstanding 20-year tenure at the school.

About 30 of Starkey's former players - many of whom went on to successful coaching careers of their own - were on hand for the celebration before the Rams played Hood College.


Hood is coached by Tom Dickman, who was Starkey's first recruit at Shepherd in 1968.

"I was short and slow, but other than that I was a heck of a player," Dickman said. "As the years went by, he recruited a lot better players."

From 1968-88, the Rams won 360 games under Starkey. He had nine seasons with 20 wins or more, including a 33-3 mark in 1975-76. Shepherd won more games than any other college team at any level that year.

After Shepherd, Starkey coached five years at Loudoun County (Va.) High School before retiring. Two years later, he took over at South Hagerstown, where he is now in his ninth season.

Starkey was contacted by Shepherd Sports Information Director Chip Ransom several weeks ago to see if the coach would come to a game at which he were honored.

Starkey said it would be his honor.

"He said he was going to invite all the old-timers," Starkey said. "This is their day as much as it is mine. They spent a lot of time with one another in hotels and on buses."

At halftime of the game, Starkey and his former players - some of whom he said he had not seen since they graduated - stood at center court and posed for pictures.

"I don't know how they found some of these guys," Starkey said. "It's great to see them get back together, talking and giving each other hugs."

As much as Starkey wanted to deflect the glory of the day to others, it all bounced back to him.

"He's done so much for so many people, I wouldn't have missed this for the world," said Martinsburg coach Dave Rogers, who played on Starkey's second team at Shepherd.

"I really appreciate Chip and (current Shepherd coach Ken Tyler) putting something like this together," Dickman said. "Coach was a major influence in my life. I'm sure he was thrilled to see all those guys here today."

The idea of honoring Starkey came from Tyler, now in his second year at Shepherd.

Tyler is willing and eager to reach back to Shepherd's past, while previous coaches and administrators seemed to want to distance themselves from what came before them.

"One thing I really want to do is connect to that great tradition," Tyler said. "Personally, my first experiences with college basketball were watching him coach in Sara Cree Hall back in the '70s.

"North Carolina always talks about its basketball family. That's something I want to have here. I'm honored to be the current caretaker of that. Coach Starkey is the patriarch."

Starkey said he appreciates Tyler's efforts at connecting the past with the present as he builds the future Rams in his own image.

That said, he did look at Tyler like an in-law on Saturday. Starkey was pulling for Dickman's first-year squad against his old school.

"Need you ask?" Starkey inquired. "Another day I'll root for Shepherd. Dickman's one of my guys."

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