By Mickey Furfari
For The Register-Herald
Gary McPherson is retiring on Friday after 40 years of distinguished service to West Virginia University in the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics.
He has had two separate stints as an assistant men’s basketball coach totaling 20 years, first in 1970 under Sonny Moran, and then he returned later with Gale Catlett for a longer stretch until 1993.
It was that year he gave up coaching and turned to 20 years of fundraising. McPherson served six years as the director of the Mountaineer Athletic Club. The last 14 years his title has been senior development officer in continuation of fundraising for athletics.
He is a native of Cass in Pocahontas County, and he attended Green Bank High School. For two years there, he was a teammate of WVU Hall of Famer Bruce Bosley in both football and basketball.
The two remained close until Bosley died at an early age in California. McPherson, who turns 77 on July 5, has had some hip operations, but is in good health. He still plays some golf.
“I enjoy being with people,” he said. “Two things I enjoyed being around while I was growing up were our school and our church. Both were in the same building.”
“Mac” is a graduate of Washington and Lee University, where he played end on the football team. He also saw some action as a linebacker at 6-foot-2, 180 pounds.
McPherson also has a master’s degree from the University of Virginia.
He had wanted to go to Marshall, because five of his high school coaches were Marshall grads. And so were all of his relatives.
He got his liberal arts education degree from Washington and Lee in 1958, then settled on a career in coaching. He had also given considerable thoughts to becoming a minister because of his interest in helping young people.
His first coaching job was at Bluestone High in Virginia. He worked there as a head coach in basketball and football.
Then he was at Ferrum Junior College as head basketball and football coach. Then, in the fall of 1963, McPherson moved to VMI as its first full-time assistant coach, and the Keydets won the Southern Conference championship. He then became head coach the next spring.
Mac became the nation’s youngest Division I head basketball coach at 27. He stayed at VMI until coming to WVU in 1969 to join Moran’s staff.
Before leaving the Keydets, he led them to an upset win against West Virginia in the old Field House (Stansbury Hall). That gave VMI a 2-2 split in the two schools’ series while he was there.
“That was a big, big deal for VMI,” McPherson recalled. “We always had to play WVU in Beckley.”
He had the distinction of both playing against WVU in Morgantown, and coaching for and against it in the Field House.
In all, McPherson is finishing his 55th year in intercollegiate athletics, and he has enjoyed his lengthy run.
“I also have another distinction,” he noted. “I’ve been hired at West Virginia, I’ve been fired at West Virginia, I’ve been rehired at West Virginia and now, I’m going to retire at West Virginia.”
He also coached at Alderson-Broaddus College for two years. There also was a two-year stint with Catlett at Cincinnati as his top assistant.
“I’ve enjoyed all my years here,” he stated. “There have been a lot of changes. College athletics have been very good to me, but most of all, I have to give credit to my family.”
Traveling took up a great deal of the time from wife Peggy, son Chris and daughter Missy.
Both grown children are graduates of WVU.