Most who live or have lived in Northern Michigan don’t know what Petoskey basketball looks like without Dennis Starkey walking the court. For over 30 years, Starkey and Petoskey have been one.
He’s been about as solid of a program leader, game-changer, mentor, coach and friend to the Petoskey program and community as there’s been in the the history of the state.
Now, after 32 years at Petoskey and 36 in his career, the Michigan high school basketball hall of fame coach is stepping down from his position, announcing his retirement on Tuesday at Petoskey High School.
Already retired from his teaching position with Petoskey for a couple years now, Starkey felt the time was right to pass the basketball program on too.
“I just think it’s a good time for somebody else to take over,” said Starkey. “We’ve got some established people in the program that are potential candidates and there’s a couple teaching positions that are open.
“Since I’ve not been teaching, I think I’ve put in more time and it just got to the point where I think someone else could take the program to the next level. Me going year to year isn’t the answer. We need someone committed to being here for a long time.”
Petoskey Athletic Director Dave Smith thanked Starkey for his commitment to the program over the years, on behalf of Petoskey High School.
“We’d like to thank Coach Starkey for all of the time, effort, and expertise he has given Petoskey High School and this community,” said Smith, who has worked with Starkey for the past three years. “He has run a model program, one that has demanded excellence not only in basketball but in how his players were to live their lives.
“His program has been as successful as any in Northern Michigan. He has certainly put Petoskey boys basketball on the map, and not only because of winning, although they did plenty of that, but because of how his teams played hard, were disciplined and were good sportsmen.”
Starkey started his career in 1982 at Boyne City High School as a young 23-year-old fresh out of college. He then went on to Vanderbilt High School in 1984, where he spent three seasons.
In 1986, athletic director Gary Hice took a flyer on Starkey to lead his program.
In his career, Starkey amassed a 553-260 overall record, which ranks 16th in the state of Michigan for boys basketball all-time. He is also just one of 25 coaches all-time in the state to reach 500 wins in basketball.
He is also a Hall of Fame member of both the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan (BCAM) and Michigan High School Basketball Coaches Association.
At Petoskey, Starkey compiled a 515-211 record for a .71 percent win percentage. He closed out his career with 14 straight seasons above .500 and earned 17 district and 14 conference titles at the school.
In the 22-year existence of the Big North Conference, there has been just four undefeated league champions and Starkey has led all four.
His most memorable runs for many around the area came in the late 90s, when he helped lead the Northmen to three straight Class B quarterfinal appearances and back-to-back trips to the Breslin Center in East Lansing with Class B semifinal games in 1997 and 1998.
For Starkey, 36 years brings back a lot of memories and emotions, things he’ll miss for a long time after.
“There’s going to be so many parts I’m going to miss,” he said. “I think being around youth keeps you young and then the staff that we had is just great. I’m going to miss those parts but I just think it’s time.”
The time to be able to set aside the basketball and pick up the golf clubs just a bit more was a thought Starkey had a number of times over the years and finally came to decide on this final year.
“There were times during the season where I thought, ‘I don’t know if I want to do this again,’” added Starkey. “The bus rides, squad selection, the total year-round commitment. I’ve never been able to even do anything on a weekend in June because we’ve been at team camps for 30 years. It would be nice to be able to do some different things and I’m ready to try to do some different things.”
With 36 years in the books and lasting memories made for countless members of the Petoskey and Northern Michigan community, it’s definitely been earned.
For much more on Dennis Starkey retiring from the Petoskey program and his hall of fame career, check the News-Review on Friday, May 4.
This content was originally published here.