Remembering Mike DePalmer

Mike DePalmer — a 3-sport athlete in Staples High School’s Class of 1951, and a high school and college coach afterward — died Thursday in Knoxville, Tennessee. He was 86.

Few Westporters remember him. But in a way, he helped change youth sports in America forever.

In the 1970s — after coaching high school and college basketball and football in Florida — DePalmer and a partner established a tennis boarding school in Bradenton.

His partner was Nick Bollettieri. The DePalmer-Bollettieri Tennis Academy helped develop players like Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Monica Seles and Mary Pierce.

In doing so, it popularized the notion that top athletes needed specialized schooling: hours of instruction a day, along with specialized fitness training, nutrition and more, while living away from home and attending boarding school.

Mike DePalmer

It’s unclear how long DePalmer was associated with the academy. But Bollettieri sold it to the sports and entertainment company IMG in 1987. The IMG Academy now includes golf, soccer, baseball, volleyball, football and lacrosse. There was a hockey program for a while too.

Thousands of youngsters attend; their parents pay tens, even hundreds of thousands of dollars, hoping they’ll be the next [insert name of your favorite athlete here].

Sports were much simpler when DePalmer played football, basketball and baseball at Staples. After 3 years in the Army, he joined the basketball team at Florida State University.

Following his partnership with Bollettieri, DePalmer served as head tennis coach and assistant athletic director at the University of Tennessee.

He was honored by many organizations, including the Sportsmen of Westport.

For Mike DePalmer’s full obituary, click here.

(Hat tip: Ben Sturner)

10 responses to “Remembering Mike DePalmer

  1. What I find interesting is that he was born in Westport. How many people can still be alive who were born in Westport? My father was born in Westport in 1918, at the family farmhouse, on Old Road, but he died years ago. Does anyone know anyone who is still alive that was born in Westport?

    • Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70 BA MA JDE

      Assuming you meant born in Westport proper as opposed to Norwalk Hospital I would agree with you.

  2. Fascinating. He must have been an unbelievable all-around athlete to have played all of the traditional sports growing up and then to have made such a mark in the tennis world. I just read that he had many successful seasons as tennis coach at the University of Tennessee and that his son ultimately coached Boris Becker.

  3. Jay Tormey '66

    Jack – I’m sure that many people were born in Westport via the Norwalk Hospital. I know the I was one of them in 1948. That is were the Westport doctors sent their patients.

    • Jay, I meant literally born in Westport. My father and all his siblings were born in the farmhouse on Old Road.

  4. Jay Tormey '66

    Jack – I believe that we also consider ourselves Westporters thru birth.

    • Jay, I’m not inferring someone born in Norwalk Hospital is less of a Westporter. However, there most likely will come a time when there won’t be anyone left in Westport who was actually born in Westport. I simply asked if anyone was aware of anyone still living who was born in town.

      • Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70 BA MA JDE

        If you were truly born in Westport it’s on your birth certificate. Norwalk Hospital doesn’t count. I don’t like it either but there’s not much you can do about it. Match goes to Jack.

  5. Helen Ranholm

    My family are Westporters as were my parents and grandparents. There are lots of real Westporters. We lived on Center Street and Hillspoint Road. My Grandfathers were Howard C Avery and John Rippe. Old real Westports should know both names.

    • I knew an Avery that lived on Center Street and worked at the Hunt Club in the 1950s. I think his first name was Joe, but I might be wrong.