Hernando coaching legend Ernie Chatman dies
Hernando High coaching icon Ernie Chatman, whose uncanny success spanned several Leopards sports and decades, passed away Sunday evening of an apparent heart attack at his Brooksville home.
He was 66.
A 1967 HHS graduate and member of at least two sports halls of fame, Mr. Chatman coached baseball, softball, basketball, track and cross country in a 42-year career, most of it at his alma mater. Success accompanied him to each sport.
"He had the ability to identify talent and be able to communicate it," said Hernando baseball coach Tim Sims, himself a Chatman disciple.
"Whether you wanted to listen to him or not, he had the ability to reach you and communicate with you. He was gonna figure out a way to communicate with you to make you realize you had that talent."
Mr. Chatman led the Leopards boys cross country team to a state title in 1997; directed the softball team to the 2000 and '01 state tournaments; and coached the '93 baseball team to a 30-5 season, tying a school single-season wins record.
He even coached Saint Leo's baseball team for one season (leading it to a program-record 46 wins in 1984) and guided the Hernando Christian Academy softball team to consecutive Class 1A state tournament berths in 2009-10.
"Ernie had the 'it' factor," said former Hernando football coach/athletic director John Palmer, a 1983 HHS graduate.
"I think whatever he did he was successful with it. Certainly I think his work ethic played a large part. He was a grinder. I don't know how else to say it, because he'd do the things nobody else wanted to do to be great."
Sims called Mr. Chatman "arguably the most successful (coach), period, in central Florida."
"He has coached pastors, doctors and track coaches at Division I...so you've pretty much got the gauntlet covered. He taught the coaches how to coach.
"A lot of folks can't say this about a P.E. coach, but I can tell you (teachers in) English, science, mathematics, they all respect him. The education family in the state's hurting today."
An indefatigable runner, Mr. Chatman balanced running and marathon training with his coaching duties for years. He ran marathons in all 50 states, and jogged every single day for 8,814 consecutive days -- a span of more than 24 years.
He is survived by his wife Linda, two daughters and a son, and six grandchildren.