Longtime Sewickley Academy athletic director Win Palmer, who also coached 3 sports, dies at 65

Friday, September 1, 2023 | 7:09 AM

One of the best ways many describe Win Palmer is that he was a gentleman’s gentleman.

Palmer, athletic director at Sewickley Academy for the past 22 years, died Thursday at Allegheny General Hospital at age 65 from cardiovascular complications. .

Palmer left an indelible mark on the Sewickley Academy and WPIAL sports communities.

He was one of the winningest coaches in WPIAL boys basketball history and reached double digits in leading his boys golf team to WPIAL championships.

Tom Droney played basketball for Palmer for four years, helping the Panthers win two WPIAL titles (2009 and ‘10) and one PIAA championship (2010).

Droney remained close to Palmer since his playing days at Sewickley and later Davidson. He had nothing but kind words to offer about his classy former hoops mentor.

“Coach Palmer was bound to the entire Sewickley Academy community,” Droney said. “He developed long-lasting and genuine relationships, provided guidance and advice, and was always in your corner to lend a helping hand. Win was as genuine a person you could ever come across.

“Beyond the massive success he achieved coaching and directing the athletic department, he will forever be known for the lasting relationships he developed with everyone he came across at Sewickley Academy. The best part of that success was the progress that was made from freshman year until senior year. He was the leader, and he got us to buy into his philosophy. We competed so hard for him because we didn’t want to ever let him down.

“He had an amazing knack at evaluating your skill set and understanding what you needed to work on to improve. He wore many different hats at the school, and this is part of the reason everyone respected and admired him.”

Palmer, known for his wisdom, humility and dedication, graduated from Notre Dame in 1980 and Carnegie Mellon in 2009.

He was hired as athletic director at Sewickley in July 2001 following a highly successful 11-year tenure in the same capacity at Flint Hill School in Oakton, Va.

Palmer’s accomplishments at Sewickley are staggering.

During his time at Sewickley, Panthers athletes and teams amassed 16 PIAA titles, 55 WPIAL championships, 108 section crowns and 15 Trib Total Media/MSA Sports Cups, an annual award that promotes the best overall athletic program in the WPIAL in a school’s specific classification.

Along with his administrative duties, Palmer was well thought of and revered as coach of SA’s boys golf and basketball teams. He also was in charge of the softball program for 14 seasons.

The Panthers reeled in 12 WPIAL team championships in golf since 2006, including last year, and nine times in the past decade.

SA golfers captured PIAA titles in 2015, 2017 and 2019. Individually, Jason Li won a state championship in 2015, as did J.F. Aber in 2019 and Tim Fitzgerald in 2020.

From 2013-20, Sewickley golf teams were 137-18 on the links.

Sewickley also earned five WPIAL basketball titles since 2004. The Panthers were back-to-back champions in 2009-10 and 2017-18.

The Associated Press named Palmer as Pennsylvania Basketball Coach of the Year in 2017 after Sewickley defeated Philadelphia Constitution, 68-63, in overtime to win the Class AA state championship.

The Panthers overcame a 12-point first-quarter deficit and trailed by six points with 2:35 remaining in the fourth quarter before pulling out the victory.

Sewickley also earned a PIAA championship in 2010, and Palmer picked up his first AP Pennsylvania Basketball Coach of the Year plaudit.

Also during Palmer’s tenure, SA earned state titles in girls tennis in 2011, 2018 and 2019; girls golf in 2017 (the first time in school history); and boys tennis in 2006, 2016 and 2017. The Panthers have been PIAA finalists in boys tennis eight times since 2005.

Palmer also guided SA’s softball team to section crowns in 2015 and 2017.

In Virginia, Palmer coached the boys basketball team to state championships in 1987, 1989, 1990 and 1995, and was twice named Basketball Coach of the Year by The Washington Post.

His career coaching record was 674-321 in boys basketball and 704-317, when including his stint as a girls basketball coach.

Palmer also offered expertise away from his coaching realm.

He served on the WPIAL golf committee from 2013-17 and WPIAL tennis committee from 2005-13.

He also was a Roundball Classic all-star coach in 2004, 2006, 2010 and 2017, and was the keynote banquet speaker in 2017.

Palmer was a Student Leadership Academy lecturer from 2006-15, served as an annual speaker at the Robert Morris University sports management conference, and was an inaugural member of the WPIAL sportsmanship committee.

His hobbies included golf, kayaking, bike riding and gardening.

“I’m a big believer that you need not only repetition in order to become successful, but you also need to fail in order to learn how to succeed,” Palmer told Trib HSSN when he was on the verge of 600 career wins. “It is through persistence with its ups and downs that you really learn how to be successful. That’s one of the reasons why I am a big supporter of the no-cut philosophy in athletics to give students the time they need to develop successful habits.”

Palmer was preceded in death by his wife, Dawn,and his sister Beth Palmer. He is survived by sons, Matthew (Nina) of Philadelphia and Tyler (Melissa) of Charlotte, N.C., as well as two siblings, Julie Palmer of Brookline, Mass., and Jeff Palmer (Mimi Zolan) of Bloomington, Ind.

A celebration of life will be held at 1 p.m. Sept. 16, at Sewickley Academy. In lieu of flowers, the family asks for any donations to be made to Gear Up Segou.


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