Former assistant Robert Palmer was named boys head basketball coach at Washington-Marion on Friday.
Palmer assisted former head coach Albert Hartwell for the past nine seasons. Before that, he served as head coach at Molo Middle School, W-M’s primary feeder school.
It’s the first head coaching job for Palmer, a former McNeese State guard who played professionally overseas before beginning his coaching career.
“I’m excited about it. I get to make the ultimate decision on everything,” Palmer said. “I learned a lot from Coach Hartwell, he let me do a lot.”
Hartwell also helped prepare Palmer to become a head coach.
“He taught me a lot about the political part of it, how to deal with people,” Palmer said. “I’m the kind of person where if I don’t think something is right, I don’t want to do it at all, but he taught me how to deal with people and that sometimes you have to give a little to get a little.”
Palmer said the Charging Indians won’t look much different under his leadership.
“It is still going to be in-yourface basketball,” he said. “We are going to be prepared. I love the process of coaching, going from the first day of practice where no one knows anything to the season where everything is working like clockwork. People just see the final product but I enjoy the process of getting there.”
Palmer said he learned a lot about the game in Europe, where he played in Germany and Portugal.
“Back then we didn’t have the cellphones and everything so it was basketball all the time,” he said. “I really honed my craft there. I learned a lot just by playing basketball all the time. I’m still friends with my teammates and coaches from there and went back to go visit them not long ago.”
Palmer is a Meridian, Mississippi, native. He played a year each at St. Bonaventure and Meridian (Miss.) Community College before finishing at McNeese from 1995-97. In addition to coaching, Palmer teaches special education at W-M.
Hartwell, known for stylish sideline attire, usually dressing in the colors of opponents for big games.
He led the Charging Indians for 11 seasons, reaching the playoffs each year, including three trips to the state tournament. The Charging Indians won the Class 4A state championship in the 2016-17 season. He has more than 750 wins in his 40-year high school career, which includes stints at Carroll, Vinton, Bernice, Arcadia, Jonesboro-Hodge and Carencro. He led both the boys and girls teams to state titles at Carroll. He played collegiately at Grambling State.
Hartwell said he will still be active at the school.
“I am not retiring at all,” he said. “I will be at Washington-Marion doing something, but I do not know what. It will be nothing with basketball. (Palmer) should do a good job. That is what the administration wanted, and we have always worked together.”
Hartwell said he’ll miss having a team to lead.
“I have been here every summer working and getting ready for every season,” he said. “The young men played hard for me, and I enjoyed being around them. I am going to miss the team. It has been a big part of my life.”
He said he is not quite ready to hang up coaching.
“I don’t know if I will be done with coaching. Maybe someone will come along.”