The Lexington Herald-Leader reported this morning that longtime, former Lexington Catholic Head Coach Tommy Starnes has passed away at the age of 86. Most of you have probably never heard of Tommy Starnes. He coached LexCath long before they are what they are now, and played in a facility quite unlike the one which the present-day Knights enjoy. He served as their head coach for 20 years, until 1985.
Mike Fields reports this morning for the KHSAA - "Competing in the 11th Region against coaching icons such as Al Prewitt at Henry Clay, Bobby Barlow at Bryan Station, Jock Sutherland at Lafayette, and Nolan Barger at Tates Creek, Starns managed to lead the Knights to the state tournament three times — in 1966, 1977 and 1985. He had 371 career victories."
Sometimes I amaze myself with how many folks I have come to know through my association with basketball. Tommy Starnes is one of those folks. Down home, somewhat gruff, folksy and very blue collar, Starnes, who might have invented "old school", and his family had seats at the State Tournament in Rupp Arena right behind ours for a number of years and we got to know each other. Despite his success, I always got the feeling that he was under-appreciated and that he, himself, felt his fan-base expected more of him and his teams. Mason County edged the Knights 68-66 in that 1985 State Tournament opening round game which marked the end of the Tommy Starnes era at Lexington Catholic. Lexington Catholic was considered to be a favorite to win the tournament that year.
The man lived through numerous life threatening health issues, one of those caused him to retire at the age of 51 years old. He came back in 1989 to start the boys basketball program at Lexington Christian High School where he served as their head coach for two seasons.
Another person who has passed through my life that I was fortunate to have met and enjoyed his company along the pathway of basketball life.