January 23, 2020
Morgan Bayard Wootten, who coached the DeMatha Catholic High School basketball team for over 46 years and introduced many college and national basketball stars during his career, died at the age of 88 at his home in Hyattsville, Maryland on January 21.
Wootten was the third high school coach to be was inducted to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in the year 2000. He also was able to lead the DeMatha Stags to five national championships. During his career, he won over 1200 games and was the most successful high school coach in basketball history. In 1965, Wootten made national headlines when his DeMatha Stags broke the 71-game winning streak of the Power Memorial team and its world-famous 7’2” player Lew Alcindor, who later changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Wootten was born in Durham, North Carolina in 1931 and grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland. In 1950, he graduated from Montgomery Blair High School and enrolled at Montgomery College the next year. In 1956, Wootten was hired as a history teacher and the coach of the football and basketball teams at DeMatha Catholic High School. Wootten and his team went on to win its first conference title in 1961 and the national high school championship in 1962. In 1964, he married Kathy Bourg and resided in University Park, Maryland, where they would raise their 5 children, Cathy, Carol, Tricia, Brendan, and Joe. Joe would become a basketball coach at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, Virginia.
In addition to his coaching success, Wootten co-authored two biographies with Bill Gilbert: From Orphans to Champions in 1979, and A Coach for All Seasons in 1997. He also wrote a manual for coaching: Coaching Basketball Successfully in 1992.
Wootten’s desire for family and education was always admired by his family, friends, students, and colleagues. He reportedly never aspired to become a coach, but became the most successful high school coach in history. At his induction, Wootten was introduced by Hall of Fame Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach, who said, “I’m going to tell you what makes a great basketball coach: Control, discipline, respect, knowledge of the game, and the love of the game. Morgan Wootten had it all.” Auerbach continued, “He loved the game. He loved the kids. He was a teacher.”
For thirty-one straight seasons, every senior on Wootten’s teams were offered a college scholarship. Hall of Famer Adrian Dantley, Wootten’s most successful player, expressing his devastation about his death, talked about the impact that Wootten had on his life: “He always taught more about life than he did about basketball.” Then he mentioned Wootten’s priorities in life: “God, family, school, then sports.”
After he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000, Wootten was offered opportunities to coach at Virginia, Wake Forest, North Carolina State, and Duke. He turned down all offers and chose to remain a high school coach. Wooten summed up his love of coaching clearly, saying, “I fell in love with coaching. I loved interacting with young people, having the opportunity to make a tremendous impression on them.”