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Starkey leaves South Hagerstown

June 16, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

Bob Starkey came to a major conclusion in the middle of the night, but by no means was it a shot in the dark.

In a late-night revelation and a shocking daytime announcement, Starkey was named boys basketball coach at Jefferson High School Tuesday during the Jefferson County Board of Education meeting, ending his nine-year stay at South Hagerstown.

"I woke up in the middle of the night and felt like I should take it," Starkey said. "I think I was meant to take the job. I feel like the Lord directed me that way."

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Starkey, 72, reluctantly steps down at South Hagerstown, where he led the Rebels to a 151-71 record and five appearances in the Maryland state tournament in the last seven years. Starkey said he wasn't actively looking for a job. The opportunity just presented itself.

"The pieces just fell into place," he said. "I wasn't looking but I was asked if I would just apply, just so I can tell them what they have been doing wrong. Then (Jefferson County) had their board meeting two weeks ago and didn't name a basketball coach.

"Then, one night, I woke up and told myself that it was fate. I'm supposed to take this job. I called them and asked if they still were looking for a coach. They said 'Yes,' and I told them I'd be there in a half-hour."

Starkey replaces Scott Douglass, who retired after four seasons with the Cougars. Jefferson was 6-14 last season and 38-47 over Douglas' tenure.

"(Starkey) is a fantastic coach," Jefferson athletic director John Brown said. "We are excited to have him. How many times do you ever have the chance to get a coach like Bob? He's a fantastic gentleman and he will do wonders for our kids and their attitudes. We hired him for more than just for winning basketball games."

Jefferson, the largest school in West Virginia, has floundered in basketball and football over the last 1 1/2 decades, becoming an afterthought in the Eastern Panhandle, let alone in the state.

Jefferson took an old-school approach to the problem, hiring Richard Mills, a 26-year veteran of Shepherdstown Middle School, as football coach two weeks ago, and now Starkey, who made his mark in the county as a 20-year coach at Shepherd College with 360 wins and nine 20-win seasons.

"They are the biggest school in West Virginia and haven't been able to be a consistent winner," Starkey said. "It's going to be a tough nut to crack with Martinsburg, Musselman and Hedgesville all in the way to advance. It's going to be tough, but I'm looking forward to those games. It's a challenge and I'm looking forward to it."

Starkey's decision to move on to Jefferson came as a total surprise to officials at South Hagerstown.

"I'm not aware (of Starkey's decision) ... This is a surprise," South athletic director Mike Tesla said. "The last I talked to him was at (last week's) sports banquet and I was at school today and no one said anything. This comes as a shock. He is going to be missed."

Starkey came to South Hagerstown and helped raise the Rebels to the level where they were a consistent state tournament threat. Starkey's ability to adapt his style of game to the talent of his players was a key to his sustained success.

"I liked it at South," Starkey said. "I enjoyed the kids, the parents and the administration. I liked it all there and I felt like we were going in the right direction. One of the things I'm most proud of is that in the nine years I was at South, we never had a player get ejected. There is nothing I can say about South because I was disgruntled. This was just fate."

Starkey drew similarities between the talent he had at South and what he will coach at Jefferson. And with all things being equal, the decision to move finally came down to a move home for his last hurrah.

"This is going to be a challenge. That's why I took this job, because there is no where to go but up," he said. "This is my home county, this is the school my kids graduated from and this is the school where my grandkids will attend. I just figured if I had any more productivity left in me, I should use it in my home county."

Staff writer Tim Koelble contributed to this story.

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