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Morgan Wootten, RIP

 
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GlennMacGrady



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PostPosted: 01/24/20 12:49 am    ::: Morgan Wootten, RIP Reply Reply with quote

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Dean Smith called him “the best coach I’ve ever seen.” John Wooden said of him, “I know of no finer coach at any level, high school, college or pro.”

Morgan Wootten, the subject of this praise, died yesterday at the age of 88.

Wootten coached basketball at DeMatha for 46 years. His teams won 1,274 games and lost 192. He was the first basketball coach who coached only at the high school level to be admitted to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Red Auerbach gave the introductory speech.


From a very nice write-up at Power Line.

Each year before the McDonald's All-American game, the Morgan Wootten NPOY award is given to a high school boy and girl. The girls winners have been:

2002: Nicole Wolff
2003: Ivory Latta
2004: Candace Parker
2005: Abby Waner
2006: Tina Charles
2007: Maya Moore
2008: Elena Delle Donne
2009: Kelsey Bone
2010: Chiney Ogwumike
2011: Elizabeth Williams
2012: Breanna Stewart
2013: Taya Reimer
2014: Ariel Atkins
2015: Katie Lou Samuelson
2016: Crystal Dangerfield
2017: Evina Westbrook
2018: Christyn Williams
2019: Haley Jones
Conway Gamecock



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PostPosted: 01/26/20 6:39 am    ::: Reply Reply with quote

I had the honor of meeting Coach Wootten a year or two after I graduated from high school, back in the mid 1980s. I had family in Conway, SC (where I grew up) who were good friends with the boys basketball head coach for Socastee High School, a small community near the Burgess Community in Horry County.

Conway is the county seat for Horry County, and most people outside of South Carolina have never heard of Conway nor Horry County, but they may have heard of a beach resort town that resides in Horry County named Myrtle Beach. Myrtle Beach is a big glitzy resort beach town nowadays - too glitzy and tourist-trappy, if you ask me - but it was initially developed by the folks who lived in Conway, who had family-owned beach cottages that they would ride horse buggies to, take boats and ferries to via the Waccamaw River or the Intercoastal Waterway once it was cut, or ride the train to after the railway was installed.

Socastee is an area a little bit back off of the Atlantic Ocean, a bit south-west of Myrtle Beach proper. Anyhow, the head coach of the Socastee boys high school basketball team at the time was Dan D'Antoni, who is now the current MBB Head Coach for Marshall University, and is the brother of Mike D'Antoni, the longtime NBA head coach.

Dan wanted to improve his program at Socastee and bring more regional attention to state prep basketball, so he decided to take advantage of the available amenities of empty hotels and restaurants in Myrtle Beach during the quiet winter period after Christmas, and started up a prep boys basketball tournament called the Beach Ball Classic, in 1981. It started out as a tournament for the top 4 in-state programs each year - or 3 top in-state programs, plus Socastee - and 4 top out-of-state programs.

Very soon, the tournament became very popular. This may have been in part due to D'Antoni's connections with the NBA, and because of that, with college and then with prep-level basketball, due to his brother. Or, it could be because of the close proximity Myrtle Beach is to top prep BB regions in the Southeast that have traditionally fed the ACC and SEC, among others. Or, it could be that Myrtle Beach as a resort venue was already well known at least for the Atlantic region from Florida to New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Or most likely, some combination of all three.

But eventually the tournament became one of the marquee national prep tournaments for both boys and girls basketball, and have played host to nationally top-ranked high school and college prep programs participating in it for decades now.

Coach Wootten's Dematha Catholic program has won "The Classic" 4 times, the first 2 times in 1984 and 1985. I guess it was one of those years that I met the Coach - I was either 18 or 19, and undoubtedly on holiday break from classes at USC. From what I can remember, he was very nice and spoke with me - I did not play basketball in high school, but played football, wrestling, and tennis - but remember him talking with me about football and saying that he once also coached that sport at DeMatha.

Dan D'Antoni has been doing pretty well at Marshall, taking them to the NCAAT 2nd Rd in 1917-18, and winning the CIT last season. And its appropriate that the Morgan Wootten NPOY awards are given at the McDonald's AA game, since Coach Wootten was one of the founders of that event......


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