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Shepherd’s Starkey, Fairmont’s Retton had a keen rivalry

By Staff | Oct 19, 2018

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Joe Retton was from Grant Town. Bob Starkey was from Wiley Ford.

Joe Retton graduated from Fairmont State in 1953. After a stint in the Air Force, Bob Starkey graduated from Shepherd in 1958.

Joe Retton began coaching basketball at tiny Barrackville High in Marion County. When he left there to coach at Fairmont State, he left with an overall record of 147-19, after winning the state’s small-school state championship with a 27-0 record.

Bob Starkey came out of the Air Force and coached at Weir High and at Oak Glen High, before coming back to Shepherd in 1968.

Shepherd and Fairmont were NAIA schools, and both were in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

Starkey would coach at Shepherd for 20 years, 1968 through 1988. Retton would coach at Fairmont from 1963 through the 1981-1982 season.

Until his last season when the Falcons went 17-11, all of Retton’s teams won at least 20 games, and upon his retirement, his record was 478-95 with a winning percentage of .836.

Starkey had a career record of 360-205, and once led the nation in wins when his 1975-76 team went 33-3 overall and won two games in the NCAA Division II national tournament.

The WVIAC did not have a round robin schedule, and Fairmont and Shepherd didn’t play each other in the first few years the coaches were at their respective schools.

Retton was well on his way to winning 12 WVIAC conference tournaments, going to 12 NAIA national tournaments, reaching that organization’s Final Four on four occasions, and even getting to the national championship in two of his seasons. Starkey’s teams never defeated Fairmont in the WVIAC tournament.

In two consecutive seasons, Shepherd and Fairmont met in the conference tournament finals with the Falcons, winning both times.

Starkey’s wins over Fairmont and Retton came in 1977 (60-58), 1978 (63-62) and 1982 (73-71).

The most dramatic game between the two teams came in the 1974-75 season, when Shepherd had Dave Russell and Fairmont had Bill Lindsey. The Falcons posted a hair-raising 100-97 win.

Retton had the basketball facility at Fairmont named after him. The Joe Retton Arena saw many nights when Retton attended the team’s games, for he still resided in the town. Starkey had a sky box at Shepherd’s Butcher Center named after him, and he came to games there since he still lived just outside of the town’s slender city limits.

Starkey was 84 years old when cancer claimed his life on April 2, 2016. He had coached Russell, Mike Philippi, Mark Palmer, Antoine Makle, Charlie Rideout and Bobby Chuey at Shepherd.

Retton just passed away at age 87. He had coached Lerman Battle, Dave Moore, Vance Carr, Leroy Loggins, Kevin Beaford, Dave Cooper and Lindsey.

Each school has moved well along since the two men led their respective teams in often pressurized games, where the loser would see its season end. But even though it has been 36 years since the two schools had the two coaches, both schools are still often thought of as Retton’s Falcons and Starkey’s Rams.