|San Jose State Legend Walt McPherson (1916-2013)|
Walt McPherson, an immensely talented multi-sport athlete, the winningest coach in San Jose State basketball history, a Legend in the University's Sports Hall of Fame and former commissioner of the West Coast Athletic Conference died on January 12 at age 96 in Santa Rosa.
McPherson was a 1939 San Jose State graduate that enrolled at the College in
1934. He earned eight varsity letters - three each in baseball and football and
two in basketball. He was a fullback for the 1936 through 1938 Spartan teams
that compiled a 27-7-1 under Coach Dudley DeGroot. Mr. McPherson was captain of
the 1938 team that finished with an 11-1 win-loss record.
"The most important thing was the
opportunity to work with so many people, and the friends we made," Mr.
McPherson said in a 2001 interview. "The wins and losses are important,
but not as important as the friends.
"When I played basketball, after every
basket, we had a center jump," he said about his college playing days.
"In football, we played offense and defense."
Upon graduation, he was named to the San Jose State coaching staff. In a 20-year coaching career, Mr. McPherson was regarded as a sound tactician, a builder of character with high moral and ethical standards, and, above all, one of college sports great gentlemen.
Mr. McPherson was the head coach of the men's basketball, baseball and men's golf teams and an assistant football coach. He was an assistant football coach for the 1941 Spartans, but was not with the team in Honolulu when Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7.
In his 17 seasons as the men's basketball coach, the Spartans had a win-loss record of 264-208. San Jose State advanced to the third round of the 1948 NAIA national championship, the second of 1949 NAIA national championship and the 1951 NCAA Western Regionals. The Spartans were the first West Coast member at-large to participate in an NCAA Tournament.
McPherson is the only San Jose State men's basketball coach to direct three
Spartan teams to 20-win seasons (1948, 1949, 1950). His players included All-Americans
Stu Inman and Carroll Williams, who would go on to coaching careers at San Jose
State and Santa Clara, respectively; Bobby Crowe, who went on to play for the
Harlem Globetrotters; Jack Avina, who would be named head coach at the
University of Portland; and San Francisco 49ers great Billy Wilson.
After retiring from coaching, Mr. McPherson served as the San Jose State athletics director in 1960 and the director of physical education from 1960 through 1968. While the San Jose State director of physical education, he also was the commissioner of the West Coast Athletic Conference (now known as the West Coast Conference).
McPherson dedication and service to San Jose State was interrupted by three
years in the U.S. Navy during World War II in which he achieved the rank of
member of the San Jose State Sports Hall of Fame, he was accorded Legend status
in 2002. In December 2003, The Event Center basketball floor, home for the San
Jose State men's and women's basketball teams, was renamed Walt McPherson
Court. Mr. McPherson was inducted into the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame in