Parasiliti: 600 more than a number for HCC's Palmer

January 22, 2012|By BOB PARASILITI |
  • Bob Parasiliti
Bob Parasiliti

You can always count on numbers.

Outside of maybe air, food and water, numbers might be something that every one of us uses every day.

Right there, air … food … and water. That’s three.

It starts when we are born. Doctors check to make sure we have 10 fingers and 10 toes. In fact, they are each called digits, which also are another name for numbers.

After that, we keep track of how many years we are alive with birthdays. That one year is divided by 12 months, which have 365 days divided into segments of 28-31 days.

Many count the hours and minutes until we get out of work, get a break, eat, go to bed or have a vacation.

Many fights start over who has one more of something that someone wants, like money or even a girl.

Some people work as accountants. Others are bean counters. And why is there inventory?

Sports are a breeding ground for numbers. We figure everything with figures.

Competitions are decided by scores, which are a total of points, or time, a collection of minutes and seconds. All those numbers create statistics, percentages and averages and records.

And those create a numerical ranking. Athletes and coaches are paid, hired, fired and go to hall of fames for the numbers they produce.

When it’s all over, those same numbers are used to give a value to a career.

If you are still with me, you just read 250 words, 12 paragraphs and 21 sentences to get to this point — Marlys Palmer reached one of those significant numbers in her career on Saturday.

Hagerstown Community College’s women’s basketball coach won her 600th career game Saturday when the Hawks moved to 18-1 with a 61-58 victory over Howard. This will be the first of many accolades and acknowledgements to come for Palmer as she counts down the days in her 33rd and final season as HCC’s coach.

The win makes Palmer 600-351 in her career.

She has a winning percentage of .631 and reached the milestone in less than 1,000 games.

She built the HCC program practically from scratch in 1979. Her first team had six players and went 2-18. Her second team went 4-16, before posting a winning season in 1981 and going to nationals in 1982.

Palmer was 6-34 in her first two seasons. That’s one percent of her wins and nearly 10 percent of her career losses. That means Palmer amassed a 594-317 mark and a 65 percent winning percentage after HCC’s program was established.

As much as Palmer tries to deny it, Saturday’s victory is important to her. She keeps track of all of her team’s records and accomplishments on a few sheets of paper she squirrels away in a desk drawer.

In a sense, No. 600 validates Palmer. It gives a feeling and standard of accomplishment for all to see now and remember later.

The 600-win club is elite. Very few coaches have reached it. Even fewer of them are women.

The total quantifies work, dedication, effort and expertise for the job, the ability to handle and motivate people and a talent to employ a system and make quick decisions successfully.

And, oh yeah, there is some luck involved.

Palmer admitted she thought she wouldn’t last to see the day when she reached 600 wins. The victories were becoming harder to come by and she prepared herself for reality, just in case she fell short.

“I had to be OK with winning just 598,” she said. “I would have coached and worked as hard as I could and helped players as hard as I could. I’m OK with it.

“The other thing that is so important to me is that this all happened by recruiting a majority of local, Tri-State players. The opportunity that local young women had is tremendous and that was my No. 1 priority — to recruit local athletes to Hagerstown.”

Sometimes, numbers pale to conviction

And in the end, that’s all that counts.

Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-791-7358 or by email at

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