By Jessica Borders
Times West Virginian
It was great to see Gale Catlett and his wife, Anise, at last Tuesday night’s West Virginia University-Gonzaga men’s basketball game at the Coliseum.
The former WVU head coach came back to present his proud protege, Dale Blaney, with Blaney’s WVU Hall of Fame award. That presentation was made during a lengthy timeout in that outstanding game Gonzaga won, 80-76.
If memory serves, this was Catlett’s first official return to his alma mater for a public function since he retired from coaching in 2002.
Gary McPherson, Catlett’s long-time assistant coach, also was a participant in this reunion of sorts. But the Morgantown resident, who later served a stint with the Mountaineer Athletic Club, still attends virtually all WVU sports events.
Then there also was another staffer from Catlett’s program who was present Tuesday night. Rex Foster drove up from Parkersburg for the game.
He’s remembered as a manager from Catlett’s great basketball teams and later as director of fundraising for the MAC.
Catlett, a native of Hedgesville, served as head coach of the men’s basketball program from 1978-2002. His 24-year rein is the school’s longest in history.
His record of 439-276 makes him the winningest basketball coach in WVU history. His clubs had 20-win campaigns in 11 of his 24 years.
One of his most memorable triumphs came against nationally No. 1-ranked University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
That was posted on Sunday afternoon, Feb. 27, 1983, at the Coliseum before an overflow crowd of 15,638 screaming spectators.
Many WVU students stayed up all night in tents for choice seats to watch that wonderful 87-78 contest.
WVU point guard Greg Jones had one of his better games that day, against Danny Tarkanian, who played the same position for UNLV head coach Jerry Tarkanian, his father.
Catlett, who lettered as a Mountaineer player in 1962 and 1963, is a member of the WVU Sports Hall of Fame. The road leading into the WVU Coliseum also is named in his honor.
A heap of close men’s basketball victories were attained by teams he coached.
Blaney, who starred as a guard from 1983-86, was about as complete an all-around player as you’ll ever see on the hardwood. He’s now a record-setting race car driver on the national sprint car racing circuit.
A big race prevented the Ohio native from participating in last fall’s WVU Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.
That young man most certainly has the credentials and is most deserving of the honor.