Coach & Teacher

Morgan Wootten RIP

By Steve Jamison



Many years ago – 1978 – McDonalds came up with the idea for an annual high school basketball game that would recognize top young players in the USA. They asked former UCLA Coach John Wooden to be a founding member of the event’s board of directors. He replied, politely, No. Why? Because starting in 1975 his retirement years had become almost as busy as those when he was winning 10 national March Madness Championships. There was no time to take on additional duties.

But a few weeks later he got a call from an old friend and fellow coach, Morgan Wootten: “John, why don’t you join me and we’ll lend our names and ideas to the event. We could do some good.”

This time – but only after being asked by Morgan Wootten – Coach Wooden said without hesitation, Yes. Why?

First, he had the ultimate respect for Coach Wootten’s character and competence which he exhibited as the legendary coach of DeMatha High School’s basketball team in Hyattsville, MA. Second, Coach Wootten promised Coach Wooden that not only would athletic skill be recognized in high school players, but also academic prowess and school and community involvement. Those last two areas were of fundamental concern to both coaches in their careers as teachers.

Helping youngsters become good people was what both men viewed as their goal in coaching youngsters. Winning, when it occurred, was a by-product. But win or lose the teaching of positive and productive life lessons was a #1 priority.

With Wootten and Wooden’s nationally respected names now attached to it The McDonald’s All America Game had immediate credibility which was justified over the decades by the presence and guidance of these two old friends: Morgan Wootten and John Wooden.

Wooden and Wootten were cut from the same cloth. Talented, humble, humorous, serious, sincere, loyal, interested in the welfare of others, unaffected, great competitors, great teachers, and faithful to family and friends, God and country. And more.

Five hundred years from now if some expert historian wants to select an individual to represent America at its very best in the twentieth century she or he would have to look no farther than John Wooden or Morgan Wootten. They were, and are, and will be as good as it gets.

On January 22, 2020, ten years after the death of John Wooden, Coach Morgan Wootten joined his friend in the hereafter. The legacy of both teachers is of the highest order and greatest magnitude: Coach Wootten and Coach Wooden taught young people how to become adults of character, good citizens and role models for others. Is there a more important job?

Safe journey Coach Wootten. Please say hello to Coach Wooden when you see him.

is peace of
mind which is a
direct result of
self-satisfaction in
knowing you made the
effort to become the best you
are capable of becoming."

- John Wooden