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Familiar face returns to coach Zephyrhills

In 1983, Ernie Pittman took over for Dale Palmer. Sixteen years later, Palmer takes over for Pittman.

Dale Palmer is back in the varsity coaching ranks, which brings two questions to mind.

1.) What sport is it this time, boys basketball or girls basketball?

2.) Which high school, Pasco or Zephyrhills?

Answers: Girls basketball and Zephyrhills.

This is Palmer's second stint coaching the Zephyrhills girls varsity.

He also has coached girls varsity basketball at Pasco and the Zephyrhills boys varsity team. Not to mention time spent as the Zephyrhills girls junior varsity coach and boys coach at Stewart Middle School.

"I've come full circle," Palmer said.

"I've coached all the basketball you can coach."

Zephyrhills principal Jim Davis hired Palmer on Monday as a replacement for school-legend Ernie Pittman, the man who replaced Palmer 16 years ago. Pittman is the team's all-time winningest coach with a 264-185 record. He led the Bulldogs to five conference and four district championships, including a state runner-up finish in 1986.

Palmer, 48, who begins his 26th year as a social studies teacher at Zephyrhills, said he does not feel any pressure in replacing his lifelong friend.

"It's probably a little bit easier for me because (Pittman) had been my JV coach," Palmer said.

Palmer has the distinction of being named the Times Boys Basketball Coach of the Year and being dismissed in the same season. In 1988-89, he coached the Bulldogs to a 20-7 record but was not rehired by then-principal Larry Robison.

Palmer takes over a team coming off an 11-14 season and returns eight players who earned letters. That group includes All-Sunshine Athletic Conference guard Natalie West.

"At this point in my career, I'm just very happy to be coaching because it's a lot of fun," Palmer said.

"As long as it's fun, I want to keep doing it."