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Jan. 23, 2020 — Morgan Wootten, 1931-2020

There are some people in various Halls of Fame whose work transcends their line of work.

One such person was Morgan Wootten, who coached basketball at Hyattsville DeMatha Catholic (Md.), a small campus just south of the University of Maryland, for 46 years.

His longevity was just one of the hallmarks of his career. There was also his loyalty: despite overtures from North Carolina State, Duke, and Georgetown, he remained at DeMatha (although it’s been said he might have taken up an offer had there been one from Maryland, his alma mater).

He was also one of only a handful of coaches to have ever exceeded 1,000 wins at any level, joining figures such as Don Nelson, Tara Vandeveer, Bob Hurley, Mike Krzyzewski, Pat Summitt, and Gregg Popovich.

But he is also known for touching many lives, getting his players to college on scholarship, and for the loyalty that has been given back to him over the years.

One of the best exhibits never played an NBA regular-season game.

Back in the early 1970s, when UCLA was stringing together seven consecutive NCAA Division I men’s basketball championships, it was thought that one contender would be, of all teams, Harvard. There was one year when a press poll made the Crimson the preseason No. 1 team in all the land. That team was led by, amongst others, a player named James Brown, who has become an icon in TV broadcasting. And he was a former player at DeMatha.

The problem for Harvard (as well as many other contenders for UCLA’s crown) was that the NCAA Tournament was a Tournament of Champions, where you didn’t get to go if you were not your conference champion. Brown’s senior year, a Penn team led by head coach Chuck Daly (a man who once got to coach the greatest team in the history of team sports) won the Ivy League.

Years later, in discussing life and basketball, Brown’s touchstone example of goodness and integrity was Morgan Wootten.

“Morgan Wootten was such a wonderful example and influence in my life, because he modeled the behavior that he preached,” Brown says. “He set the example, yet he was a master motivator. He worked harder than he wanted us to work. He was well-read. He put in the hours necessary to be the excellent coach that he was, not only a coach of basketball, but a coach who helped to shape us and influence us for the game of life. I can look back and say: “Coach, thank you.'”

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