FROM ORPHANS TO CHAMPIONS: The Story of DeMatha's Morgan Wootten by Morgan & Bill Gilbert Wootten

FROM ORPHANS TO CHAMPIONS: The Story of DeMatha's Morgan Wootten

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This modest account of the career of one of the nation's most successful highschool basketball coaches has the ring of truth despite the poems, platitudes, and pieties he teaches (""Inch by inch, life's a cinch/ Yard by yard, it's really hard,"" ""he ain't heavy, father, he's my brother,"" etc.). If communicating such values does not make a great book, it seems to make a fine coach; DeMatha, in Hyattsville, Md., boasts a 90 percent win record, four national championships, future NBA stars such as Adrian Dantley and Kenny Carr. But the key to winning, coach Wootten insists, is not to overemphasize winning. His priorities are God, family, school, and basketball--though the first requirement, he admits, is having good players. A highschool history teacher as well as a coach, he points proudly to the fact that every one of his players has won a scholarship to a four-year college. Wootten's account of his career--beginning as an all-sports coach for an orphanage--is low-keyed. When his undefeated Catholic DeMatha was to meet undefeated Power Memorial with Lew Alcindor/Abdul Jabbar, he got his outside shooters to arch their shots higher by having his center practice with a tennis racket. He argues that his team won many crucial games simply by being in better condition than the opposing line-up. Wootten describes the turmoil caused by college recruiting and the coach's responsibilities in helping his players gain recognition and also in sheltering them--Adrian Dantley was almost dissuaded from Notre Dame by a Maryland coach who showed him a uniform and jacket with his name and number on them. Wootten does not criticize the game or the system, although he does suggest a 30-second shot clock for college and highschool, and the elimination of jump balls. He argues that better coaching would result from head coaches relying more on their assistants and by enforcing the rules made by the team itself. Unexciting maybe, but close to home.

Pub Date: Oct. 18th, 1979
Publisher: Atheneum