The Times West Virginian

Mickey Furfari

February 16, 2014

FURFARI COLUMN: McPherson recalls dramatic recruitment of Dale Blaney

MORGANTOWN — Gary McPherson, longtime top assistant to former West Virginia University men’s head basketball coach Gale Catlett, recently recalled his somewhat dramatic recruitment of the great Dale Blaney at Hartford, Ohio, in the early 1980s.

That extremely talented 6-foot-3 guard now is a widely acclaimed sprint car racing record-setter, who turned 50 years old on Jan. 30. He still resides in Hartford, Ohio.

McPherson, who still lives in Morgantown with wife Peggy, called it a high honor to present Blaney for induction into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame last Sept. 14. Blaney certainly was most deserving.

McPherson, who logged 34 years in collegiate basketball coaching, retired in 1994. That included a five-year stint as the head coach at VMI, where he posted two memorable victories against WVU – one in Beckley and the other in Morgantown.

After giving up coaching, he remained at the university involved in fundraising duties with the Mountaineer Athletic Club.

Asked where he would rank Dale Blaney among his countless number of recruits, McPherson replied: “Certainly in the top five – maybe No. 3!”

That’s quite a tall tribute to one who excelled in virtually every phase of the game as a Mountaineer star.

“He was an excellent team player for us,” McPherson recalled. “Very unselfish. A great shooter. A great player.”

Jerry West, the greatest basketball player in WVU history, will tell you Blaney could have made the Los Angeles Lakers squad when West was an executive with that NBA franchise.

However, Blaney chose to retire from basketball and concentrate on sprint car racing, following in his father’s footsteps. Dale’s brother Dave is now a NASCAR racer.

Blaney, a rare two-year team-captain, started 110 games as a Mountaineer from 1982-83 through 1985-86. He led his team to records of 23-8, 20-12, 20-9, and 22-11 and three berths to NCAA tournaments and one National Invitation Tournament.

He ranks 18th all-time with 1,522 points for his career. He ranks 16th in career assists (331), 10th in career double-figure games (80), 10th in career free throws (376), and 10th in free throw percentage (.813).

As for eventually signing Blaney in a strange twist of circumstances, Coach McPherson actually had been for Catlett’s most immediate need working in search of a bigger player in the 6-foot-10 range.

But one day he received an unexpected telephone call from an Ohio gentleman. He urged McPherson to look at a certain player he called “the best high school player in that part of Ohio.” It turned out to be Dale Blaney.

But despite the fact WVU really didn’t need another guard at that time, McPherson talked Catlett into permitting him to drive up there to Hartford.

He not only saw the talented youngster in practice but in several games, including a regional all-star post-season contest at Youngstown State College’s arena.

And McPherson liked everything he saw at every turn. He admittedly was greatly impressed with what he witnessed.

As for the person who had called the WVU recruiter’s attention to Blaney, McPherson found out at trail’s end that the man is the father of Blaney’s girlfriend at the time. He made it known that Georgia was in hot pursuit of Blaney.

I happen to think it’s a great success story with a most happy ending.

Don’t you, especially if you’re a Mountaineer fan?

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Mickey Furfari
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