The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

May 21, 2013

Palmer to leave UPJ women’s position

Mike Mastovich

JOHNSTOWN — Sasha Palmer will embark on a new chapter as a women’s basketball coach next month.

But for now, neither Pitt-Johnstown nor Palmer can reveal where she’ll be for the 2013-14 season.

“I have accepted a job. For their purposes, I can’t say anything until June,” said Palmer, whose resignation will take effect on June 30. “Everything is confirmed. It’s going to be my new place. I have to respect their wishes.

“I’m not leaving on any bad terms at UPJ. It’s been great.”

UPJ Athletic Director Pat Pecora confirmed Palmer’s pending resignation and that the program has advertised the position and already received a significant number of applicants.

“We can’t announce it and she can’t announce where she’s going until June,” said Pecora.

Palmer joined the UPJ program in 2007-08, replacing Jodi Gault, a Pitt-Johnstown Athletics Hall of Famer who won 540 games in 25 seasons.

“Sasha stepped into a very tough situation,” Pecora said. “It’s no easy task to come in and have to replace Jodi Gault, who had so much success. She did a nice job under difficult circumstances. The last couple of years, it really started to show.

“She had the freshman of the year in the conference. Her recruiting classes have been great. She definitely has the program moving forward.”

Palmer finished with an 87-80 record at UPJ, including a 14-12 season in 2012-13. The Lady Cats advanced to the WVIAC Tournament, losing 72-64 to the University of Charleston in the first round.

Her first team went 10-18, but since then, Palmer has led UPJ to five straight winning seasons with an 18-12 mark in her second season as UPJ advanced to the conference semifinals.

“We joined the conference and our first year we weren’t that good,” Palmer said. “It was a tough schedule and we had to get some recruits in.”

Palmer’s successor should have a solid nucleus. UPJ will welcome back Jasmine Harper, who was named WVIAC Freshman of the Year last season, and Kaitlynn Fratz, an all-conference pick in 2012-13 and the WVIAC Freshman of the Year in 2011-12.

“We have a good, young team,” Palmer said. “We’ve had the last two conference freshmen of the year. This year wasn’t what we hoped for. We lost 12 games this year and nine of the losses were by six points or less. The team is going to be good.

“That’s the hardest part, leaving the kids,” she added. “I wasn’t looking for anything. It just fell in my lap. My kids understand. It’s hard for them and it’s hard for me to leave.”

UPJ will join the PSAC during the upcoming season, which should make the women’s head coaching job even more appealing.

Pecora said a search committee has been formed, led by UPJ men’s basketball coach Bob Rukavina.

“We’ve been getting bombarded with applications,” Pecora said. “It’s definitely a good position (for a coaching candidate). We’re going into the PSAC. We’ve got a great tradition.”

Palmer said her husband, Jamal Palmer, who has been an assistant coach to Rukavina the past four seasons, also will leave UPJ.

“He has a new job as well,” Sasha Palmer said. “It is a great situation for both of us.”