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Palermo steps down as softball coach at Sto-Rox

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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Sto-Rox softball coach Bill Palermo retired Tuesday, June 4, 2013.
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Tuesday, June 4, 2013, 3:36 p.m.
 

Sto-Rox softball coach Bill Palermo has retired after 35 seasons, leaving his afternoons free for swimming, bike rides and long runs.

“Someone asked me, ‘When you retire, what are you going to do?' ” said Palermo, 65, who has won more softball games than any other coach in WPIAL history.

The tough-minded approach that made him a successful coach now has the retired math teacher entering triathlons. In three and a half decades, the McKees Rocks native won 10 WPIAL softball titles and one state title at Sto-Rox, along with 27 section titles. His career record was 589-137.

His newfound hobby influenced his retirement decision, and Palermo also wanted more time with his four grandchildren. But conflict with Sto-Rox's administration played a big part as well, he said.

“It wasn't just one thing,” Palermo said. “I've put some time into these triathlons and I like to do that. ... My grandchildren are becoming that age where they're involved in stuff and they want pappy to be around. ... And the administration provides an atmosphere I don't want to be around.”

He doesn't expect to coach again elsewhere, but added that he “would never say never.”

Palermo has been the only softball coach in Sto-Rox history. He built a program that reached the WPIAL title game 14 times. The Vikings made the playoffs in 29 consecutive seasons.

“Besides all the wins and championships, his endurance over the years and his dedication to the girls is really unique,” said athletic director Bill Minear, who was a student at Sto-Rox when Palermo became coach.

Palermo also coached girls basketball for a while and once was the school's athletic director. Having a shaved head and tattoos, including ink on his leg that commemorates softball titles, his strict style was somewhat unorthodox.

“The reason for the success was that the kids know we love them and the parents really let me treat them like they're my kids,” said Palermo, who had his wife, Carrie, as an assistant. “It's not because we grow great softball players here in Sto-Rox. They let me discipline them.”

That discipline keeps Palermo active; he entered his first triathlon at 62. He won his age group in both triathlons he entered this year, including one Sunday in Cape May, N.J. The event included a quarter-mile swim, a 10-mile bike ride and a three-mile run, a course he completed in 1 hour, 19 minutes.

He plans to compete next week in Colorado, and in Philadelphia two weeks later. He's building toward an Ironman event in mid-July that features a 1.2-mile swim, a 55-mile bike ride and a half-marathon.

“At times, I'm on a bike flying downhill at 35 or 40 miles an hour going around a bend; I feel like I'm back in sixth grade,” he said. “That's what I'm doing now that I'm retired.”

Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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