"I heard about it as soon as I walked in from our trip to Cincinnati," said current La Salle coach Speedy Morris, whose team played Xavier yesterday. "I'm shocked. He looked great the last time I saw him. Not an ounce of fat on him. He looked like he could still play.
"I used to see him every year when we used to go out to Pittsburgh to play [Duquesne]. I'd talk to him and then I'd have him talk to the kids. He was a really loyal guy. He really appreciated [former La Salle coach] Tom Gola, and he told me that many, many times. Tom used to advise him about different things, and Kenny was very loyal to him and loyal to La Salle. He loved La Salle. He would talk about coming back to Philly and finding work here," Morris said.
Most recently, Mr. Durrett had been a community volunteer and a girls' basketball coach in the Wilkinsburg School District.
Mr. Durrett was inducted into the Big Five Hall of Fame in 1975 and became a member of La Salle's Hall of Fame a year later.
The 1968-69 La Salle team went 23-1 and was ranked No. 2 in the country. However, the Explorers were on probation by the NCAA and unable to compete in the organization's national tournament.
The overall La Salle record during Mr. Durrett's collegiate career was 57-20 for a .740 mark.
As a senior, he led the Explorers to a 15-1 record before suffering a torn knee ligament. He came back without surgery and finished the season averaging 27.0 points, second in the country.
His most memorable moment came when he poured in a career-high 45 points in La Salle's victory at the Palestra over a strong Western Kentucky team with all-American Jim McDaniels.
In 1971, Mr. Durrett was picked fourth overall in the NBA draft by the Cincinnati Royals. The next season, the team moved to Kansas City, where they became known as the Kings. During the 1974-75 season, he moved to the 76ers, who waived him the following September.
His pro career was hampered by a series of knee operations. In 120 NBA games, he averaged 4.0 points and 10 minutes of playing time.
Mr. Durrett led La Salle in scoring all three years he played, from 1968 to 1971, and also was the Robert Geasey Award winner as the Big Five's most valuable player in each of those seasons.
He ranks third overall in scoring average with 23.7 points per game with the Explorers - behind Lionel Simmons and Kareem Townes - and scored 40 or more points in a game five times in his career.
Mr. Durrett was the team's scoring leader in each of his seasons and is 12th on the all-time list with a total of 1,679 points. He is fifth in rebounds with 850.
"He's the best Big Five player I ever saw," Morris said. "I saw him in some games where he was absolutely great. He could do it all. I tell a lot of guys if it wasn't for the reconstructive surgery he had, he'd be a Hall of Famer. He had some great battles with Howard Porter of Villanova. He had that unbelievable game against Western Kentucky. He would play all five positions. He could bring the ball up court and sometimes he'd play center."
Recruited by then-coach Jim Harding, the 6-foot-7 player was one of the top collegiate prospects in the country at Pittsburgh's Schenley High School. In 1966, he led his high school to the PIAA state championship.
A teammate of Mr. Durrett's at La Salle was Larry Cannon, who was part of that 1968-69 Explorers squad.
"As a person, he was very easygoing off the court, and very quick to smile," Cannon said last night. "He was very friendly to everyone he met.
"As a basketball player, from the first time I saw him play, he was spectacular. At that time, there weren't too many people that could do the things that he could do.
"All my memories of Kenny are good ones. News like this is not easy to absorb."
After Harding left La Salle, Mr. Durrett was coached for two seasons by Gola, and then by Paul Westhead.
In 1977, Westhead hired him as an assistant.
In the early 1980s, Mr. Durrett moved back to Pittsburgh, where he opened an athletic-shoe store.
Mr. Durrett is survived by his wife, Stephanie; two daughters, Beverly and Anita; and a son, Kenneth Jr.; his mother, Eulacile King; and two stepchildren, Jamarow and Christopher Trowery.
Funeral arrangements were incomplete.
Mel Greenberg's e-mail address is email@example.com
* Inquirer staff writer Joe Juliano contributed to this article.