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  • Budd Bailey

Review: Star with a Broken Heart


Review by Budd Bailey


The story of Ernie DiGregorio's book, "Star With a Broken Heart," might be as interesting as the book itself, based on a limited amount of information. 


When I was writing a book on the Buffalo Braves of the NBA (Ernie D played for that team), I found a reference or two to a book that DiGregorio had written. A search on line for it proved futile though - although I was prompted to try again when basketball writer Peter Vecsey said he had a copy of it. Still, no luck.


My Braves' book came out without the help of using that as a reference source, and DiGregorio even came to Buffalo for a launch party. (Thanks, Ernie.) Shortly after that event, the announcement came from Providence College that it was selling "Star With a Broken Heart."


Naturally, I immediately ordered a copy, and it came in relatively short order. (If you are curious, it's not available on Amazon.com.) The book held a few more surprises. It was written in 2020, although the copy that arrived proudly announced "First Edition" on the front cover. There's no sign of a publisher within the book's pages, so I guess we can assume it was self-published. 


That's all rather odd, but it's nice to have Ernie's take on the events of his life on paper. It was quite a ride for a while, and the book centers on Ernie's relationship with Marvin Barnes and Dave Gavitt. 


DiGregorio came out of North Providence, a six-footer who was an absolute wizard when it came to passing the basketball. There were always doubters along the way, but he kept climbing the ladder of success in the game. DiGregorio eventually landed at Providence College to play at the next level, and it was there where he met two people who were instrumental in his success.


One was the coach, Dave Gavitt, who achieved a string of successes during a career in basketball. Not only were Gavitt's teams usually good, but he also was the key member in the creation of the Big East Conference and played a part in the growth of basketball nationally and internationally. The other was another player from Providence, Marvin Barnes. He was a freakishly talented big man who came out of difficult circumstances to become one of the nation's best players. 


DiGregorio's relationship with those two men is at the center of the book. It proved to be immediately beneficial to all of them, as Providence reached the Final Four in basketball in 1973. The Friars had hopes of knocking off UCLA that year - admittedly a tall order - but an injury to Barnes in the national semifinal essentially ended those hopes. Along the way, DiGregorio and Barnes became very close friends - an odd couple if there ever was one. Both men relied on Gavitt for advice while they were in college and beyond. 


Both players reached the pros and had some success before their careers were derailed. For DiGregorio, it was a knee injury that he suffered early in his second season. For Barnes, it was drug addition. The big man battled those demons for the rest of his life, and Ernie D did his best to provide support. (He also knew how to make an assist.) But Barnes' victories proved to be temporary, and he died too young in 2014. 


By the way, DiGregorio doesn't spend much time on the rest of his basketball life. His time in the NBA receives a few chapters, and there's nothing about what happened after he left basketball. 


There are some problems with "Star With a Broken Heart" that probably could have been solved with a coauthor. A few facts are wrong along the way, some material is duplicated, and a handful of the sentences don't make a great deal of sense. With those "buyer beware" warnings in place, this comes across as having a nice, long personal conversation with DiGregorio. That means that you may wander a bit along along the way and some of the details don't quite work, but hearing his stories - especially about this Providence trio - will keep you interested from start to finish. 


In other words, "Star With a Broken Heart" ought to keep the interest of anyone interested in that era of Providence basketball. That no doubt was the goal, and it's a success in that sense. 


(Follow Budd on X.com via @WDX2BB)

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