- The Washington Times - Monday, May 27, 2002

Here's the biggest non-story in this town since maybe the Clinton administration: Barring unforeseen developments, Morgan Wootten will be coaching basketball again next season at DeMatha High School.
That will make it 47 years for the nation's most honored and prominent prep coach or is that 147? Sometimes it seems almost that long since he traveled from St. John's in D.C. to Hyattsville and began creating a program that is the envy of every rival.
"Each year now I do the same thing," said Wootten, who is 71 and has rebounded miraculously from a liver transplant in 1996. "After my summer camp (openings remain for players aged 9-18 for the June 30-July 5 session), I kind of check to make sure my energy level is still high to see how much fire and brimstone I have left."
Chances are a lot, although yowling at his troops has never been Wootten's thing. He saves such stuff for an occasional offending zebra.
Certainly, there were no signs of a slowdown last season. DeMatha went 32-3 while ranking first in the area practically a divine right by now and seventh in the nation. The Stags won their league title, the city championship and the Alhambra tournament in Cumberland, Md.
Wootten was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., two years ago, but they can't hang up his permanent plaque because the guy won't hang up his whistle. For the record, he's 1,274-192 lifetime a winning percentage of .868.
Best of all, Morgan has achieved those numbers while teaching his players about God, family and basketball in that order. Just like the flags on this Memorial Day, long may he wave.

Tom Bates: R.I.P.
The death last week from cancer of former Naval Academy sports information director Tom Bates was a shock to friends who hadn't known he was sick. Although Bates had been Navy's director of compliance for six years, he endured in memory as one of the nation's best and most intense SIDs.
Bates did not have an easy time during his 23 years in that job. Although a civilian, he had to satisfy various members of the academy's brass who couldn't understand why, say, a Navy field hockey result didn't rate screaming headlines in Washington and Baltimore newspapers.
And then there was the military protocol. Once I asked Bates, "Why can't you call [athletic director] Bo Coppedge by his first name why is it always 'Captain Coppedge.'"
Tom smiled wryly and said, "That's not how things work around here."
Playing practical jokes on his friends was one way Bates retained his sanity. Once I was sitting in an airport after a game with him and two other writers, Bob Fachet of the Washington Post and Jim Jackson of the Baltimore Sun, when an airline employee approached with a wheelchair and told me, "I understand you need help to board, sir." Meanwhile, Bates the louse was cracking up.
Another time I left my typewriter in a cab headed for Syracuse's old Archbold Stadium. When the cabbie discovered it, he returned to the stadium, entered the press box and inquired, "Is there a gentleman here named Mr. Heller?"
"Absolutely not," Bates replied with a straight face.
He will be missed.

The land of Cotton
When Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson get it on June 8 in their long-unawaited title fight, the identity of the third man in the ring should stir a few memories among longtime boxing fans in the area (assuming any are left).
The referee will be Eddie Cotton, a former top light-heavyweight who was in line for a shot at champion Dick Tiger when he showed up at Washington Coliseum on the night of May 8, 1967, to fight Bob Foster, the District's own contender.
Cotton had gained notoriety after a long career as a journeyman by giving former champion Jose Torres a tough scrap the previous summer, but he was no match at age 40 for the tall, hard-hitting Foster. Bob proceeded to smite Cotton hip and thigh, not to mention in a few other areas, before putting him to sleep in the third round.
By using the fingers on both hands, plus a few toes, I deduce that Cotton is now 75, which seems a might hoary to be reffing a title fight. Then again, Eddie might be only 60 or so, because ages in boxing are about as truthful as career records.

Honoring the past
A collection of Negro Leagues trading cards and memorabilia will be unveiled Friday night at Prince George's Stadium as the Bowie Baysox celebrate their 10th anniversary,
"This collection is incredibly unique," says Jim Burgess , director of the Negro Leagues Baseball Living Legends program, "because it offers everyone an opportunity to look into the faces of baseball history and acquire an understanding and appreciation for the personal sacrifice that collectively made a profound contribution to this great nation."
Players who are expected to take bows before the Baysox's game against Norwich include Sam Allen, Al Burrows, Gordon "Happy" Hopkins, Larry LeGrande, Walter Lundy, Carl Long, Robert Scott, Pedro Sierra, Wilmer Fields, Ernest Burke, Bert Simmons and Joe Durham. Not many household names there, but the point is they could have been if.

Eminently quotable
Magic Johnson, on speculation that he someday might run for mayor of Los Angeles: "I think I could run and manage the city because that's what the mayor is he's a manager. But should I give up my life? And now the answer is no."
New York Yankees coach Willie Randolph, on the quick ascension to stardom of second-year second baseman Alfonso Soriano, "He's got a presence and a sense. He's not intimidated by too much. He stands right on top of the plate. It's like, 'I can play, and I'm going to show you I can play.'"


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