Prior to 1958, the USF basketball team had no permanent home. During the 1955 and 1956 NCAA championship seasons, Phil Woolpert's teams had to practice and play home games at either nearby Kezar Pavilion in Golden Gate Park or the gym at neighboring St. Ignatius High School. The aftermath of USF's back-to-back national championships spurred a fund-raising effort that ultimately made building an on-campus venue possible and in 1958, War Memorial Gym opened its doors.
Originally serving all of USF's athletic needs, War Memorial Gym also briefly hosted the San Francisco Warriors during the 1963-1967 seasons. Upon the arrival of women's sports on campus, War Memorial Gym also became the home of the women's basketball and volleyball teams. Though the gym missed the Russell and Jones era by three years, it was the home of the great Dons teams of the late 1970s led by Bill Cartwright, Phil Smith and Quintin Dailey (though some high-profile matches were held at the Cow Palace or the Oakland Arena). In 1989, with the construction of the Koret Health and Recreation Center, War Memorial became exclusively an athletic venue, though training facilities continue to be housed in the Moran Center beneath the gym.
Dedicated to the USF dead of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, War Memorial Gym currently seats 5,300 spectators. Above the court can be seen banners commemorating USF's national and conference championships in basketball, including titles won by the women's basketball team in their old conference, the Northern California Athletic Conference. Players' retired numbers can also be found, including banners for Pete Newell and Phil Woolpert. The gym's foyer houses a mini-hall of fame, displaying trophies and memorabilia from USF's athletic history.
In 2008 and 2009, USF made upgrades to the gym. The old floor, which was the original installation, was replaced, along with the bleacher seating in the upper level. The old baskets were replaced with stand-alone versions, and new banners were installed.
War Memorial Gym was also the site of CBS's first national college basketball broadcast, a 1982 match-up between USF and the University of Georgia. It hosted the 1987, 1989, and 1993 West Coast Conference men's basketball tournaments.