Top Stories

Hall of Fame coach Morgan Wooten dies at 88

Wooten coached 13 future NBA players during his storied career at DeMatha High School in Maryland.

Morgan Wooten, the legendary coach of DeMatha High School in Hyattsville, Md., died Tuesday, the school announced. He was 88.

He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2000 and was the first person who coached high school exclusively to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. He retired in 2002, but began his coaching career there in 1965. During that time, he won more than 1,200 games at the Washington, D.C.-area school and became the most successful high school coach in basketball history.

He lead the school to the mythical national championship in 1962, ’65, ’68, ’78 and ’84 with his ’65 team breaking the 71-game win streak Lew Alcindor (later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and his Power Memorial team was in the midst of. Wooten notched more than 40 consecutive seasons with at least 20 wins and his teams won more than 30 conference championships. Additionally, DeMatha finished the season ranked No. 1 in the Washington, D.C. area more than 20 times.

Wooten’s teams were one of the first to play powerhouse teams from other states and used a full-court pressure defense that often led to offensive fouls.

“We would step out and let somebody run over us, and they would call a foul and we would go down and shoot at the other end,” Wootten told USA Today in 2013. “The rules committee came down from Massachusetts and started watching us play. That little innovation of stepping in front of a player, getting your feet planted and taking contact in the chest became eventually known as the offensive foul. We made them change the rule five times before they called it the offensive foul. At first, it was just a foul and we shot it. Later, they said that’s delaying the game, so we’ll wait five fouls before we go down. And then they went to the line for one. And finally they said we’ll call it an offensive foul but we won’t shoot it.”

Per USA Today, Wooten went 1,274-192 at DeMatha, ranking him second all-time behind Robert Hughes’ 1,333 victories. He also coached 13 future NBA players at DeMatha — most notably former Utah Jazz star and Hall of Famer Adrian Dantley.

A dedicated educator, more than 150 of Wootten’s former players went on to play college basketball. More than 20 of his former coaches or players coached at the high school, collegiate, or professional level.