by Bill Van Horne
February 1, 1980
Foti Makes Dapper Dan Hall of Fame
The fiery, half-pint coaching strategist will be inducted into the Dapper Dan Hall at the club's annual awards dinner on Sunday, February 10, at the Wheeling Civic Center, along with pro basketball great John Havlicek, the only other enshrinee this year.
Retired from coaching but still residing in Warwood, where he piloted the Viking basketball teams for 27 years, Foti has earned his Hall of Fame distinction with a record staggering in quantity and luminous in quality.
The Jamestown, NY native, who has called the Ohio Valley "home" since coming here to coach football and basketball at Wheeling Central Catholic High in 1942, has given coaches present and future something to shoot at with 466 varsity high school basketball victories, all but 26 of them at valley schools.
Foti is just one of four Ohio Valley basketball coaches to notch over 400 victories. The others are Claire Cribbs, of Bellaire; Dick Potts, still active at River High at Hannibal; and the late V. Everett Brinkman, legendary coach at Wheeling High and already a member of the Dapper Dan Hall, as well as the West Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.
"I never expected an honor like this," the veteran coach said when notified of his selection. "It is a very happy occasion for me, though the news floored me for a moment."
Now 69 years old, Foti can look back on a record of distinction - not only as a coach but as an athlete. He was a stellar high school athlete at Jamestown and was captain of the 1930 football team there. One of a family that included nine boys and one girl, he started college at St. Bonaventure but later transferred to John Carroll University at Cleveland, where he played football, basketball and hockey. He was recently selected to John Carroll's all-time football team.
After graduation in 1938 from John Carroll, Foti remained there for a year as freshman coach and then moved on to Erie (PA) Prep School. At Erie Prep for two years, he compiled a 26-8 basketball record. Subsequently, he took on the Wheeling Central job.
Foti became an old hand at state basketball tournaments. His Warwood teams won 11 sectionals and 7 regionals, thus appearing in the West Virginia state tourney 7 times.
Moreover, in six years at Central, he had his basketeers in the state Catholic tournament five times and compiled an over-all mark of 117 victories against 28 defeats. His 1943 football team went 9-1 to qualify for the Steel Bowl at Steubenville, where it lost to Rochester, PA, 20-19.
At Warwood, the little general experienced 14 winning basketball seasons and three campaigns in which his Vikings won 20 or more games. His 1967 aggregation, led by all-staters Bill Kennedy and Greg Church, won the West Virginia double-A crown at Morgantown and his 1975 team was runner-up to Northfork in action at Charleston.
Jim had the distinction of coaching clubs in three divisions of the OVAC. He has also coached West Virginia teams in both valley all-star basketball and football games.
Also, he coached Mike Valen's professional Wheeling Puritans, forerunners to the Wheeling Blues, in 1947-48.
Foti actually had two tours of duty at Wheeling Central. After coaching there from the football season of 1941 through the basketball season of '44, he moved across the river to Bellaire High, where he coached for two years. Then he returned to Central and coached through 1949.
When he first went to Warwood in 1950, he was not head coach in football, but took over that post in 1957 following the departure of the late Howard Lewellen. He piloted the Viking gridders for ten years before giving up the grid reins. His over-all record in football shows 90 victories, 106 losses and three ties.
Foti was line coach at Warwood when the great Chuck Howley, later to become an all-pro linebacker with the Dallas Cowboys, played for the Vikings. Bob Dunlevy, who went on to star at WVU and subsequently was drafted by the Cowboys, was also one of Foti's pupils.
From his war-time football team at Central, Jim Dailer and Bill Gompers went on to Notre Dame, Jack McConville to Alabama, Pete Schuetz to Duquesne, Bill McCreary to West Liberty, and Paul Schuetz to Northwestern.
Foti won an OVAC basketball championship with his 1943 Central team and his '44 club bowed by only a point in the Eastern Catholic championship at Newport, R.I.
His 1962 Warwood club, led by Bob Ayers, later a star at VMI, and his 1967 state championship team were also conference titlists. With Kennedy, who went on to star at Arizona State, and Church, who went to West Point, leading the way, the Vikes won 24 and lost 3 in '66 and were 24-2 when they copped the state crown in '67. Foti's '75 aggregation, led by Craig Riedel, won 21 and lost 6.