SI Vault
 
The Stickler
Mark Beech
November 18, 2002
Retired
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
November 18, 2002

The Stickler

View CoverRead All Articles

Retired

As the basketball coach at DeMatha Catholic High in Hyattsville, Md., Morgan Wootten, 71, whose record of 1,274-192 makes him the winningest coach in hoops history. Wootten, whose teams played tenacious pressure defense, coached his first game at DeMatha in 1956 and led the Stags to 20 or more wins in 44 straight seasons, earning 33 Catholic League titles and five unofficial national championships. On Oct. 13, 2000, he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. "His records are so impressive because they were against the best teams," says Spurs forward Danny Ferry, who played for Wootten from 1981 to '85. "We went all over the place. We went to New York, and whoever was the best team in New York, that's who we played."

Ferry is one of about 200 DeMatha players who played in college and one of 13 who had careers in the NBA, including six-time All-Star Adrian Dantley and Grizzlies coach Sidney Lowe. Several of Wootten's former assistants moved on to head coaching careers, most notably Notre Dame's Mike Brey and Miami's Perry Clark. Fox Sports broadcaster James Brown, who was a high school All-America as a forward-center for Wootten in 1968 and '69 and later played basketball at Harvard, says DeMatha's teams were drilled on fundamentals. "Morgan was a stickler," says Brown. "If you threw a behind-the-back pass, it had better work."

For all his accomplishments, and despite several opportunities, Wootten never left to coach at a college, saying he couldn't imagine being happier than he was at DeMatha. He missed only six games in 46 years, and when a liver transplant put him in Johns Hopkins University Hospital for 32 days in the summer of 1996, he was back for the Stags' first practice. "I loved what I did and was excited about it," Wootten says, adding that he'll still work with kids at clinics and at his camp in Frostburg, Md. "I surrounded myself with good people and did my best to help my kids become better citizens."

1