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Where are they now? Keith Starr

Thursday, March 06, 2003

By Rich Emert

Keith Starr's basketball career at Pitt was cut short by a knee injury at the start of the 1975-76 season, his senior year.

Keith Starr, during his playing days at Pitt, is flanked by Coach Tim Grgurich, left, and teammate Tom Richards.(Post-Gazette photo)

Still, the Chicago Bulls thought enough of his talent to select him in the fourth round of the NBA draft in '76. He played two seasons with the Bulls until knee problems forced him to retire.

Starr, a standout at Quaker Valley High School, was a 6-foot-7 swingman and a starter on Pitt's 1973-74 team that won 22 consecutive games and lost to North Carolina State in the NCAA East Region. He went into coaching after his playing days and ended up on the Jerry Tarkanian's staff at UNLV along with former Pitt coach Tim Grgurich and Cleveland Edwards. Starr was with the Runnin' Rebels for eight seasons.

The past 10 years, he has been a State Farm Insurance representative in Las Vegas and helps coach basketball at Foothills High School. Starr, who will turn 49 next week, lives in Henderson, Nev., with his wife, Dina, daughter, Mercedes, 11, and son, Austin, 7.

Q: Do you look at LeBron James, who has received national attention as a high school senior, and see a little of yourself?

A: Yeah, I guess I do. I went from being 6-foot-1 to 6-5 1/2 between my sophomore and junior year in high school, but I was still a guard just like he is. Even though I grew that much I was still able to maintain all the skills to remain a guard. I just wish I would have had his shot. I always tried to play good defense and I was a pretty good passer. I was a scorer but I wasn't a great shooter like he is.

Q: What made you decide to go to Pitt?

A: I had opportunities to go other places, but at that time the Pitt team was all local players with Billy Knight and Kirk Bruce, and I wanted to be a part of that. It certainly wasn't because of the record because the year before I went there they were 12-12. But a lot of the top Pittsburgh-area players were staying home and going to Pitt. I think the only one who got away was Maurice Lucas.

Q: Pitt is having a good run this season. Do you follow the Panthers?

A: I stay up with what's happening with them. My mother, Marjorie, is still a big Pitt fan and tells me what's going on. When I come back home I usually try to get out to Pitt. I know Coach [Ben] Howland from when he coached out here [as an assistant] at UC-Santa Barbara.

Q: What do you think of Coach Howland?

A: He's obviously a good coach. Look at what he's done at Pitt. I was at Pitt visiting a year or two ago and he had me go in and speak to the players. He's a class guy.

Q: Didn't you have an opportunity to leave Pitt early for the pros?

A: I did but I decided to stay for my senior season and then I tore my knee up before the first game and missed the entire season. But we were a close team and that's why I wanted to stay. We used to run the steps at Pitt Stadium together and we'd go out and run with weight vests on. At the time we thought we were making ourselves strong, but we were actually tearing our bodies ... our knees down.

Q: What made that 1973-74 team at Pitt special?

A: We had great coaching in Fran Webster and Buzz Ridl. I think Coach Ridl was ahead of his time with some of the things we did. Plus, we had great leadership in Billy Knight, and everybody on the team got along because we were all local guys.

Q: What was it like coaching at UNLV?

A: It was a good situation for me. With Tim Grgurich there and Cleve Edwards and myself, and Mel Bennett was there for a while ... it was all Pittsburgh guys. Coach Tarkanian was good in that he knew how to put together a coaching staff. He would give you responsibilities and then let you go. He allowed you to do a lot of coaching.

Q: Do you keep in touch with any of those guys?

A: Tim is working in the pros and he's pretty busy, so I don't talk to him much. Cleve Edwards is a scout for Philadelphia and I talk to him quite a bit.

Q: Would you like to get back into college coaching or be a scout?

A: Maybe if the situation was right, but I wouldn't want to do all of that traveling. That's why I enjoy what I'm doing now. I like my job and coaching at the high school keeps me involved with the game. Both of my children play basketball, and I've stayed away from coaching them, but my wife has coached them. I can see where I'm going to be getting more involved in that soon, so I wouldn't want a job where I'd have to be traveling a lot.

Q: Do you go to many UNLV games?

A: I don't go down there at all. They don't play hard defense, and I don't think they have what it takes to be a big-time program.

Q: Would you think about coming back to Pittsburgh to coach?

A: Only in the summer. I love the Pittsburgh area and all but I don't like that cold weather and can't handle the snow.

Q: What's it like to live in Las Vegas?

A: I know people think it's glamorous, but I don't gamble so I don't venture down to the casinos. They are there, just 3 miles away, and when people come to visit you can take them down there, but it's a case that when you live here you don't pay that much attention to them.

(Have an idea for a Where are they Now? E-mail it to emert196@attbi.com)

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