Morgan Wootten, Acclaimed High School Basketball Coach, Dies at 88

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“We fronted and backed Lew the entire game,” Wootten recalled in “From Orphans to Champions: The Story of DeMatha’s Morgan Wootten,” (1979, with Bill Gilbert). “If they were going to beat us, they’d have to find somebody else to do it. We cut off the Power passing lanes, we trapped, we did everything you could think of to deny him the ball.”

“That game, I think, had the biggest impact in the history of high school basketball,” Wootten told USA Today in 2013. “After we beat Lew Alcindor, high school basketball started to be recognized on a national basis.”

Wootten was inducted into the basketball hall of fame, in Springfield, Mass., in 2000 and was also named the Naismith Scholastic Coach of the Century. The hall’s Morgan Wootten Lifetime Achievement award is presented annually to the most outstanding boys’ and girls’ high school coaches.

Upon Wootten’s retirement, Adrian Dantley called him “a father figure to everybody in the school, not only to the basketball players but the whole student body.”

“Morgan never had any problems with discipline,” Dantley told The Washington Post. “He had some of the toughest, roughest kids in the urban area, and when they got there and Morgan would say something, they would do whatever he said. He was like John Wooden at U.C.L.A. Everybody respected him.”

Morgan Bayard Wootten was born on April 21, 1931, in Durham, N.C., and grew up in the Washington suburb of Silver Spring, Md., one of four children of Charles and Claire Wootten. His father was a Navy officer.

Morgan played basketball and football in high school, usually as a substitute.

In Washington in the early 1950s, he was the head baseball, basketball and football coach at Saint Joseph’s Home for Boys, a school for orphans and children from broken homes, and later a junior varsity basketball and football coach at St. John’s College High School.


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