- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 25, 2000

Morgan Wootten first got into the profession when his uncle asked him to coach an orphanage baseball team. Yesterday it was announced the DeMatha legend will be the first boys' high school coach to enter the Basketball Hall of Fame.
"It's a great thrill and very humbling when you think of the people in there," said Wootten, who recently completed his 44th season at the Hyattsville, Md., school. "It's hard to believe you are in there alongside people like Red Auerbach and John Wooden."
Wootten will be one of six members to be inducted Oct. 13 in Springfield, Mass. Former NBA stars Isiah Thomas and Bob McAdoo, Tennessee women's coach Pat Summit, Kentucky athletic director C.M. Newton and NBA pioneer Danny Biasone also will be honored.
Eighteen of 24 votes by a secret panel are required for election. Among those nominated but not voted in were Mount St. Mary's coach Jim Phelan, Arizona coach Lute Olson and former NBA stars Bobby Jones and James Worthy.
Wootten, 68, has been at DeMatha since 1956, and is the only coach at the professional, college or high school level to amass 1,200 wins. He's compiled a record of 1,210-187 (.866), with five mythical national championships, 31 conference championships and at least 20 victories each of the past 42 seasons.
"If anybody ever deserved to get in, he does," said fellow member and former Boston Celtics coaching legend Auerbach, who sees Wootten as the high school equivalent of UCLA's Wooden. "You can't do anything more than win. And he did more than win. He has the best record of any high school coach. His academics are unchallenged. His kids swear by him. I'm glad they gave it to him while he is still living."
Wootten's life was in jeopardy in 1996, when he required a liver transplant to survive. He is a strong advocate for organ donations and runs a charity tournament at MCI Center each year to raise money and awareness.
His first coaching assignment was as baseball coach at St. Joseph's orphanage in Northeast Washington. After graduating from Maryland, he became baseball coach and assistant basketball coach at St. John's High School in the District. He moved to DeMatha as football and basketball coach and baseball assistant in 1956. His 1963 football team, often considered the area's all-time best team, posted a 9-0 record.
In 1965, the Stags ended the 71-game winning streak of Power Memorial (N.Y.) with Lew Alcindor, later Kareem Abdul-Jabaar. That game drew national attention, and helped propel Wootten to be the national spokesman for his sport.
Wootten was considered to be in the running for the coaching job at Maryland before the Terps hired Lefty Driesell in 1969. N.C. State offered him its top position in 1980, but Wootten turned down the Wolfpack. At DeMatha, every graduating player for more than three decades has gotten a college scholarship.
"I know he is proud to be the ambassador for high school basketball," said Delaware coach Mike Brey, who played for Wootten in the 1970s and was a Stags assistant coach from 1982 to 1987. "The record is unbelievable, but he's not hung up on that. He's an educator. It has never been too complicated for him. He's there to prepare kids for life."
Wootten has developed a slew of disciples throughout basketball, including Minnesota Timberwolves assistant Sidney Lowe, Tulane's Perry Clark and his own son, Joe, at Bishop O'Connell High. He also has produced NBA players like Adrian Dantley, Danny Ferry and Kenny Carr and has sent more than 150 kids to college on basketball scholarships.
"Hopefully, I represent all high school coaches, because they don't get a lot of recognition," said Wootten, who spent yesterday at a golf tournament to help raise money to name a new athletic building at DeMatha for Brendan McCarthy, a player on the 1963 championship football and basketball teams who died two years ago.
His colleagues and rivals were happy to hear about Wootten, who was nominated but not voted in last year, getting enshrined. It only reinforced something they have known for decades.
"It's the ultimate challenge as a coach," said Good Counsel's Joe McCall of playing against Wootten. "You are going against a great team with a Hall of Fame coach. He set a whole standard in coaching. Not just with X's and O's, but he cares about his players and his players' academics."

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