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Hall of Fame coach Michael Starke has returned to coach the Bearcats in the 2014 fall campaign. Serving as interim coach, Starke will oversee the program while the University conducts a national search for its new head coach.
Starke led the program for 20 notable years and orchestrated its successful Division I transition before retiring in 2006.
“We’re excited to have Coach Starke return to campus and lead our men’s tennis program through the current fall season,” Director of Athletics Patrick Elliott said. “Michael is a tremendous teacher and coach and we truly appreciate his willingness to assist our program during this period of transition.”
A lifelong Binghamton native, Starke coached from 1987-06, steering the men’s program to unprecedented regional and national success. During his tenure, Starke produced 10 All-Americans, 14 Academic All-Americans and 26 NCAA qualifiers. His teams claimed five conference titles, advanced to the NCAA Championship seven times and won at a 67 percent clip. He won 246 matches and held the niche of being a conference Coach of the Year at all three NCAA divisional levels.
“It’s truly a privilege to be back,” Starke said. “Having worked here for 20 years … returning to coach is special. I hope to make the most of this opportunity and I’m very happy to once again be part of the Bearcat family.”
In 1995, Starke assembled one of the finest teams in school history. The Colonials went 17-4, advanced to the program’s first-ever NCAA Championship, crowned its first four All-Americans and ranked 10th in the entire nation. That began a run of three straight NCAA appearances and three straight top-12 national finishes.
Before turning the reigns over to Cohen in 2006, Starke’s Bearcats produced three consecutive America East titles and NCAA berths, along with the program’s first-ever nationally-ranked Division I player and its first Division I regional team ranking (12th).
He was twice voted ITA Regional Coach of the Year and was selected as America East Coach of the Year three straight years. In four consecutive years during his tenure, Binghamton produced the America East Player of the Year. He was inducted into Binghamton’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 2012.
Starke has been a prominent fixture in local tennis for decades and continues to own and operate the Binghamton Tennis Center. In 1994, he was instrumental in bringing to the area the successful USTA professional tournament, which just held its 21st annual event..
Michael and his wife Kristen have two children, Allison and Noah. The family resides in Binghamton.
Rick Heichemer begins his second season with Cohen and the men’s program in 2014-15. His influence helped solidify BU’s America East championship in 2014. Prior to that, Heichemer coached with the Bearcats women’s program for four years, twice helping BU advance to the America East title match. Heichemer’s leadership was crucial during a head coaching transition in 2009 and with his steadying influence, two different Binghamton head coaches were honored by the conference as Coach of the Year.
He previously was the head pro and general manager of the Broome Racquet Club, where he coached several junior players in the area.
A 1975 graduate of Eastern Kentucky, Heichemer also competed at nearby Broome Community College in 1972 and 1973.