- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 7, 2002

Morgan Wootten, who during 46 years at DeMatha Catholic High School won more basketball games than any other coach at any level of his sport, retired yesterday after a career that earned him almost universal respect and acclaim.
During a crowded news conference in the Hyattsville school's media center, Wootten said he had a "gut feeling" that the time was right for him to retire.
"I thought about it all summer long, and then, in early September, there was no question in my mind," said Wootten, 71, whose long tenure yielded 1,274 victories and a winning record of .869.
He called his legendary coaching career the "fulfillment of all my boyish hopes and dreams" and said "no coach could have asked for a greater group of young men."
Wootten, who two years ago became only the third prep coach elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., said he intends to remain active at the school in several areas as coach emeritus and "will try to be a good ambassador for the sport I love." Asked whether he could envision himself returning to coaching, Wootten said he was "only interested in being the best helper I can be."
The school named assistant coach Mike Jones interim coach yesterday and said a committee will be formed to select a permanent successor after the 2002-03 season, which begins late this month. Jones is a former DeMatha player.
Wootten's final team finished 32-3 and was ranked No. 1 nationally by The Washington Post and No. 8 by USA Today. In his last game, March 2, DeMatha posted a 68-63 victory over a Bishop O'Connell team coached by Wootten's son Joe.
Wootten described last season's squad, which had an 18-game winning streak and won several postseason tournaments, as a "very special team." He added, "They were so good, maybe that helped convince me that it was the right time to retire."
The coach said he will remain active in several other areas at DeMatha, run his summer basketball camp and write books on basketball.
"It's been said that you wear out before you rust out, and I have no intention of rusting out," he added.
Wootten informed DeMatha's players during a meeting about an hour before the afternoon news conference. Senior center Steve Danley said the news came as a surprise.
"You learned to ignore rumors [of Woottens retirement] because they've been [around] since I was a freshman," Danley said. "He told us he would still be there for us and wanted us to stay in touch. He said he might not be our coach, but he would still be our friend."
Of the players' reaction, Danley said, "There was a split-second when we all asked ourselves, 'What next?' There's never been an 'after Coach Wootten' before."
Wootten was near death in the summer of 1996 after becoming ill at his basketball camp. He returned to coaching that fall after receiving a liver transplant and has become a strong advocate of organ donations.
In addition to Kathy Wootten, his wife, the news conference was attended by their daughter, Carol Paul; and three grandchildren, Stephen, 15, Kiersten, 9, and Charlie Paul, 6. Several former DeMatha players also attended. Among them was nationally known sportscaster James Brown.
Asked during the news conference about when he made his decision, Wootten said jokingly, "When I found out Kathy didn't have any more projects for me to do."
Mrs. Wootten said she was "looking forward to spending more time with her husband and added, "I always prayed for him to know the right time. He doesn't rush into things."
During his 4 decades as basketball coach, Wootten's teams won five national championships and were ranked No. 1 in the Washington area 22 times. He closed his career with 44 consecutive seasons of 20 or more victories. Wootten never had a losing season.
Some of his players including Adrian Dantley, Kenny Carr, Danny Ferry, Sidney Lowe and Adrian Branch went on to be outstanding pros.
Wootten was named football coach, basketball coach, athletic director and world history teacher at DeMatha, then a relatively new school in the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, in the summer of 1956. He continued to coach football through the 1968 season, compiling a 79-40-2 record before resigning that post.
During the early years of Wootten's basketball tenure, his teams were not able to overcome those of Carroll High School, which won 55 consecutive games and were ranked No. 1 in the area in 1959 and 1960. But in 1961, the Stags posted a 27-1 record and were ranked as the metropolitan area's best team for the first time. The following season, they went 29-3 and were ranked No. 1 nationally.
Wootten's most notable victory, although he refused to pick one yesterday, came in 1965 when DeMatha ended the 71-game winning streak of New York City's Power Memorial and its star center, Lew Alcindor, later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. To get his top scorers used to shooting over the 7-foot-1 Alcindor, Wootten had his defensive players practice while holding tennis rackets over their heads.
Wootten was considered for the University of Maryland's head coaching position before the school selected Lefty Driesell in 1969. He was offered the top job at North Carolina State in 1980 but declined.

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