Morgan Wooten—Above All a Great Teacher

The Washington Post reported this morning that “Morgan Wooten, winningest high school basketball coach, dies at 88”—here’s an earlier 2015 post about coach Wooten as a teacher:

Morgan Wooten and Dean Smith: Two Teachers, Two Legends

By Jack Limpert

Dean Smith was born in Kansas on February 28, 1931.

Morgan Wootten was born seven weeks later in North Carolina on April 21, 1931.

Smith coached at the University of North Carolina from 1961 to 1997, winning 897 games and two national championships.

Wootten coached at DeMatha Catholic High School, just outside Washington, D.C. in Hyattsville, Maryland, from 1956 to 2002, winning 1,274 games and many local championships.

When Dean Smith died Saturday night, the Washington Post said, “On Sunday, Dean Smith was remembered as a teacher, mentor, adviser, and coach—and that was probably just the way he’d have preferred it.”

Morgan Wootten?

In the late 1980s, while editing The Washingtonian, I had lunch with Bob Ferry, general manager of the Washington Bullets—later renamed the Wizards because of the high crime rate in the nation’s capital. Ferry’s two sons, Danny and Bob Jr., played for Wooten at DeMatha. Danny went to Duke and the NBA, Bobby almost went to North Carolina but instead went to Harvard.

At lunch Bob talked about going to Bobby’s college graduation in 1985. He went out to dinner with his son in Boston and asked about life at Harvard, starring in basketball and doing well in the classroom. He asked Bobby who his favorite teacher was.

Bobby said the best teacher he ever had wasn’t at Harvard. The best was Morgan Wootten, who taught history at DeMatha High School when he wasn’t in the gym.

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