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Bob Starkman, Hall of Fame Basketball Coach, and Joe Pistone, aka Donnie Brasco, Share a Glimpse 'Inside Both Courts'

Bob Starkman's new book "Inside Both Courts" details his life as a Federal Agent, JUCO Hall of Fame basketball coach and a family man.
Doug Doyle/Zoom
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Author Bob Starkman says his son came up with the title of his new book

Inside Both Courts is the new book from JUCO Hall of Fame basketball coach and retired Federal Agent Bob Starkman. Starkman's long-time friend is legendary former FBI Agent and New York Times Best-selling author Joseph D. Pistone (aka Donne Brasco).

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Joseph D. Pistone
Johnny Depp as "Donnie" and Al Panico as "Lefty" in the 1997 film Donnie Brasco

Pistone, who was portrayed by Johnny Depp in the 1997 film Donnie Brasco and Starkman are the latest guests on SportsJam with Doug Doyle where they share their stories of basketball, law enforcement and family.

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JUCO Hall of Fame Basketball Coach Bob Starkman talks about his new book "Inside Both Courts" with his long-time law enforcement friend and legendary former FBI Agent Joseph D. Pistone (Donnie Brasco)

Starkman writes in his book Inside Both Courts that the first encounter between the two wasn't so cordial. Pistone, who was instructing law enforcement officers at the time, gave his recollection during this zoom chat for SportsJam.

"Customs had an undercover school which I was an instructor at. When I first met Bob he said 'you look bigger in your book' and I said 'F-you too' (laughs) and that was the start of a good friendship."

It was obvious from the start of the interview the great respect the two men have for each other.

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Joseph D. Pistone
FBI agent Joseph D. Pistone when he was infiltrating Mafia families in NYC. The photo was used for the cover of Pistone's Best-selling book "Donnie Brasco"

The evidence collected by Pistone led to over 200 indictments and over 100 convictions of Mafia members. Starkman says nobody's career in law enforcement can compare to Joe Pistone's undercover work for the FBI.

"He's the Michael Jordan of law enforcement, no question. It's like breaking a record. I don't think that record will ever be broken and even steroids couldn't get it to be broken like in other sports you know."

For Starkman, his appetite for law enforcement work came after reading an article in the New York Daily News about Detective Ralph Friedman.

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Bob Starkman and Joseph D. Pistone
Law enforcement heroes Detective Ralph Friedman with Joseph D. Pistone and Bob Starkman

"I remember pulling it out because the newspaper was really thick on Sundays and I saw this picture of a cop holding a suspect and I started reading the article. It just kind of intrigued me. I really didn't know what I wanted to do at the time. It just got me going, taking police tests, me and a couple of my friends, it was just something that caught me eye at the time."

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Bob Starkman
The section of the New York Daily News that caught Bob Starkman's eye and steered him into law enforcement

Who knew that article would produce of the best Federal agents and would eventually lead to life-long friendship with Pistone.

Pistone has written several popular books and also penned the foreword in Inside Both Courts. Starkman says his buddy was a constant source of support during the book's journey.

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Bob Starkman
Best-selling author and legendary FBI agent Joseph D. Pistone goes over some pages of his friend Bob Starkman's new book "Inside Both Courts"

"Throughout my whole process of writing the book, Joe was the only person what looked at what I was doing. I would write things down. Joe would look at it. Since I wasn't a good typist when I first started the book 13 years ago, you know like I'm doing a one-finger crossover, then if I made a mistake I'd hit Alt-Delete and lose everything. Joe said go 'old school', pad and paper and start writing things down."

Write he did. Inside Both Courts is 432 pages filled with great stories about Starkman's early days growing in up in Queens, New York, his up and down days in high school and college basketball, his transition into law enforcement and how his kids got him into coaching.

"Well I never through in a million years I'd be a coach. I started enjoying because you know there are a lot of obsessed parents out there. I never had to live my life through my children. My daughter was a great high school player. She started every game, like Joe (Pistone). From freshman to senior years she played at Belmont Abbey College (North Carolina). It's funny my middle child, Rob, is 6'10. People would come up to me and say 'how come you don't make your son play, he's 6'10', but I don't have to live my life through my children. He owns a sock company now that trust me he wouldn't be making that money if he was playing basketball. My little son was a baseball player, got hurt, and was a manager for years as was my other son at UCF, my youngest son was a manager at the University of Florida and he's in his sixth season in the NBA working for a team. It's just interesting how everything revolves."

Answering a job add for an assistant women's basketball coaching position, started a hall of fame career on the sidelines for Bob Starkman. His most recent coaching role was with Florida National University as an assistant men's coach. That followed a stint as a full-time interim men's coach at Keiser University.

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Bob Starkman
Bob Starkman coaching at Keiser University

Prior to Keiser, Starkman spent 21 seasons at Broward College with 19 of those as the Head Men’s Basketball Coach. In his tenure, the Seahawks posted a 319-186 record while capturing two Southern Conference Championships, five Southern Conference Tournament Championships, and appearing in seven NJCAA Region 8 tournaments. He coached 59 All-Conference players, eight All-State players, five All-Americans, and two Player of the Years. Lastly, he was twice named the Southern Conference Coach of the Year and left Broward as the winningest coach in school history.

All those wins landed Starkman in the Florida JUCO Basketball Hall of Fame.

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Bob Starkman
JUCO Hall of Fame Coach Bob Starkman with legendary West Virginia University Coach Bob Huggins at a basketball clinic

Life wasn't easy for Starkman growing up in Queens. His mom passed away when he was 15. He got cut from high school team during his freshman, sophomore and junior years. He kept working on his skills until he finally made the varsity roster his senior year. The 6'5 hooper played a season for Palomar Junior College before transferring to York College for his final three seasons.

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Bob Starkman
Bob Starkman was 6-foot-5 at Palomar

Playing high school and college basketball was also something Starkman and Pistone had in common. Pistone was a star on his high school team in Paterson, New Jersey. They found out later in life they both were the same uniform number 22. Starkman always loved that number because his idol, NBA forward Dave DeBusschere, wore #22 on his New York Knicks jersey.

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Bob Starkman
Knicks legend Dave DeBusschere wore #22 and was idolized by Bob Starkman

"6'6 was considered big back then. I just liked the way he played. He played hard, inside-outside. You know basketball is a different game now. DeBusschere was just my idol."

During this SportsJam edition, the two men also shared stories about their beloved wives, Starkman's wife Jill and Joe's wife Peggy. Pistone says it was difficult during his undercover days because he spent so much time away from Peggy and his children.

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Joseph D. Pistone
Joe Pistone's undercover "Donnie Brasco" ID card

"You're away seven to eight months at a shot and you get home for one or two days. Your wife is raising the kids so that was the toughest part. And luckily, she raised three good kids and no problems with any of them. Everything turned out well. In our profession, the divorce is very high. It takes a strong spouse or partner to got at it alone. I think as long as they know the reason that you're doing your job, that's 95 percent of it right there. They know you believe it and it's the right thing to do, not that you're running away from your responsibilities."

Both Starkman and Pistone still love to compete, but these days they battle each over who is a better cook.

Bob and Joe's books can all be found at amazon.com.

You can find out much more about their lives by clicking on the audio at the top of the page.

The video version of this SportsJam session can be found at https://fb.watch/50bvMK4Fvk/.

Doug Doyle has been News Director at WBGO since 1998 and has taken his department to new heights in coverage and recognition. Doug and his staff have received more than 200 awards from organizations like PRNDI, AP, New York Association of Black Journalists, Garden State Association of Black Journalists and the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists.