BVA opens Palm's coaching job
One year after delivering his team to the greatest season in the school's history, Belle Vernon Area baseball coach Dan Palm is out of a job.
The Belle Vernon Area School Board voted 8-0 (Director Aaron Bialon was absent) to open the position, as well as Palm's assistants, at Tuesday's meeting.
Palm guided the Leps as head coach since 2006 and in 2012 took BVA to the WPIAL Class AAA championship game for the first time in the program's history, losing to Blackhawk, 1-0.
The Leps went 19-6 last season, advancing to the quarterfinals of the PIAA playoffs. However, with a veteran cast returning, BVA slumped to 11-10 this season and was ousted from the first round of the WPIAL playoffs by Chartiers Valley, 2-1, in eight innings.
While Palm oversaw the greatest baseball season in BVA history, he also was in charge when the program suffered some black eyes.
One came in a PIAA contest against Punxsutawney in 2012 when a melee erupted that caused three Lep coaches, including Palm, and one BVA player to be ejected.
As a result, the PIAA put the program on a two-year probation that included other sanctions.
This season, Palm was suspended three games by the district for an unspecified incident. While he was not coaching, assistant Ryan Shetterly was ejected from a game against Elizabeth Forward and caused the PIAA to consider banning the team from the postseason.
Instead, the PIAA simply added more sanctions against the program, including another year's probation.
“It's a tough balance,” said BVA Director Dan Sepesky, a member of the board's athletic committee. “You are winning, but there are other issues to consider. I think we just want to get rid of the black eyes for the district.”
Other than that, Sepesky declined additional comment.
Palm, whose career record at BVA is 66-81, including 44-25 the last three seasons, said he expected his job to be opened, “Because of the coaching stuff going on in BVA this past 12 months.”
“I almost got canned last year after the best season in school history,” he said.
Palm then went on to mention other athletic coaches in the district who either had attempts fail to open their jobs or lost their jobs in the last 12 months.
An attempt was made to open the job of football coach Aaron Krepps, but failed. Boys basketball coach Eric James had his job opened and popular and successful wrestling coach Jack Jolley resigned because his job was about t be opened.
“Nothing would have surprised me here,” Palm said. “I'm not surprised at all because of what we went through since the brawl at St. Mary's versus Punxsutawney last season. There has been so much more this year though to make it tough.
“But I am sad because I gave everything I could to this program for 12 years.”
Palm served as an assistant under Jim Russell from 1999-02 before taking over in 2006.
“I'm so appreciative of the great kids and coaches that have built this program to where it is now,” he said. “(Assistants) Ryan Shetterly, Walt Williams and so many others have dedicated so much of their lives. I am grateful.”
Palm says he does not rule out coaching in the future, as soon as next season if the right situation presents itself.
He then smiled and added, “If I do (get a coaching job), we'll try to get BVA on the schedule. I will miss those kids so much. They are awesome and will succeed with a new coach.”
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.