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Gale Catlett, West Virginia University basketball player and coach, was born October 31, 1940, in Hedgesville, Berkeley County. He was an outstanding high school athlete and a starter for the WVU basketball team in 1962 and 1963 when he was considered the team’s best defensive player.

Catlett apprenticed under some of college basketball’s best coaches: Lou Mills at Richmond; Ted Owens at Kansas; Lefty Driesell, then at Davidson; and Adolph Rupp at Kentucky. His first head coaching job was at Cincinnati, where he coached six years. He took over at WVU in 1978. The 1981–82 team finished 27-4 and posted the nation’s longest winning streak, 23 games. The next year, WVU won 23 games and won the Atlantic Ten conference tournament. The 1989 Mountaineers (26-5) put together a 22-game streak, and won the Atlantic Ten regular season title. In 1998, the Mountaineers made it to the Sweet 16 of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament for the first time since 1959, losing to Utah 65-62.

A 30-year WVU tradition of turning out an All-American or All-American candidate each year stopped under Coach Catlett. A fundamentalist who stressed defense, rebounding, and team play, he said, ‘‘My job is not to produce pro players. It is to recruit the best student athletes I can.’’

Catlett coached WVU to 13 20-win seasons before he retired in 2002. His teams twice averaged more than 10,000 fans per game in the Coliseum. Catlett was named Coach of the Year in 1989 by Eastern Basketball magazine and finished as one of 10 finalists for the Associated Press National Coach of the Year award. He is among the elite 45 NCAA Division I coaches who have won 500 or more games, with 400 of his wins at WVU. In 30 years of coaching, Gale Catlett had only three losing seasons, all at WVU. He was elected to the WVU Sports Hall of Fame in 2004 and the West Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 2006.

In 2005, Republicans encouraged Catlett to challenge Robert Byrd for his seat in the U.S. Senate. Catlett chose instead to remain in retirement and out of the spotlight.

This Article was written by Norman Julian

Last Revised on April 11, 2013

Related Articles


Julian, Norman. Legends: Profiles in West Virginia University Basketball. Morgantown: Trillium Pub., 1998.

West Virginia University Basketball Media Guide. 1998-1999.

Cite This Article

Julian, Norman "Gale Catlett." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 11 April 2013. Web. 29 May 2024.


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