- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 1, 2003

Steve Hood's life is a history of D.C. basketball.
Hood starred for local legends Morgan Wootten and Lefty Driesell. He roomed on the road with the late Bison Dele (at the time Brian Williams) on an NCAA tournament team at Maryland. He played for former Washington Bullets coach Dick Motta.
But none of that hoops education, or eight years of playing overseas in eight countries on four continents, prepared Hood for his rough introduction to the world of coaching. When Hood's Wheaton High School team closes out a 5-16 season with a second-round Maryland playoff game Monday at Bladensburg, they'll have just nine players, including two called up from the junior varsity. Five others couldn't handle Hood's emphasis on discipline, and another two didn't make the grades.
"Coaching is a lot tougher than I expected," said Hood, 34, who spends most days as a longterm substitute teacher at Parkland Middle School in Aspen Hill. "There's so much that goes into this job, so much time you spend preparing for practices and games."
Unlike gym rats like Maryland coach Gary Williams and Catholic's Mike Lonergan, who were seemingly born for the sideline, Hood fell into his job by accident.
Hood was a high school All-American for Wootten at DeMatha and Driesell's last big-time signee at Maryland. However, Driesell was forced out in the wake of Len Bias' cocaine overdose before Hood even suited up. Hood averaged 14.2 points fourth in school history for a freshman despite playing small forward instead of his natural shooting guard spot in 1986-87.
With Brian Williams and three other talented players added to coach Bob Wade's mix the next year, Hood's playing time fell by a third and his scoring slipped even further. So when Driesell resurfaced at James Madison in 1988, Hood transferred. Always a fine shooter, the 6-foot-6 Hood averaged 21.4 points during his two seasons with the Dukes, winning Colonial Athletic Association's player of the year honors each time.
After Sacramento made Hood its second-round pick in the 1991 NBA Draft, he played sparingly for Motta until the Kings traded for rising Golden State star Mitch Richmond. That's when the Kings cut Hood, starting the eight-year odyssey that took him to Australia, France, Spain, the Philippines, Greece, Japan, Venezuela and Israel, as well as a stint with Shreveport of the CBA.
The New Carrollton native finally came home in the fall of 2000. After laying low for a year, Hood began substitute teaching on the advice of fellow former DeMatha and Maryland standout Adrian Branch. Hood also helped friend Kim Hayden coach Wheaton's girls team. When Wheaton boys coach Scott Spear left for Richard Montgomery last spring, Hood got the job.
"Even though Steve's volunteering with our girls team was the extent of his coaching experience, his life experience helped sell me on him," Wheaton athletic director Renie Mallory said. "Steve's a role model. It took a while for the kids to get used to what Steve believed in, what he demanded, but those things are more important than our record."
Hood was an offensive-minded player, but he's more jump shot than slam dunk.
"The first thing I instilled in my players was fundamentals," said Hood, who makes them run wind sprints for tardiness, cursing or interrupting him. "I didn't want to see street ball. Basketball isn't about flash. You have to know the game first."
If it sounds as if Hood is channeling Wootten, that's no coincidence. He said the Hall of Fame coach molded him as much, or more, than his parents did.
"Steve had a great feel for the game," Wootten said. "You could tell him something once and he would understand it."
Hood learned the importance of toughness from Driesell, who until he retired in December always used Hood as an example.
"If I had a player get sick, I would tell him about when Steve was throwing up before a game against East Carolina," Driesell said. "I told Steve that there was no way that he could play, but he did, and he ended up scoring 35 points."
Maryland assistant coach Dave Dickerson said that blend of smarts and tenacity will make his ex-Terps teammate a winner. However, with little height top scorer Ricky Marzett is just 5-7 and only five players returning, that success might take a while.
"I've had a rough first year, but I love challenges," Hood said. "I'm looking forward to turning this program around, but more important, I want to help mold guys, teach them how to move on to the next level and be successful. People ask, 'Why Wheaton? You could have gone anywhere.' I believe that all kids from tough areas like this one 70 percent of Wheaton's students are minorities and 40 percent qualify for free lunches need is a chance. You can make it no matter where you're from if you're willing to put in the effort."

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