George Leftwich, the head basketball coach at Sidwell Friends, is leaving the Northwest Washington private school at the end of the school year to become athletic director at his alma mater, Carroll, ending a coaching career that spanned nearly 40 years. Following a distinguished playing career at Carroll and Villanova, he coached at Sidwell for 13 years, Carroll for seven years and Gwynn Park for two years, as well as college stints as an assistant at Georgetown and head coach at UDC.
"He was as good as they come, as a player and coach," said former DeMatha coach Morgan Wootten, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame.
GS: What stands out among your achievements coaching high school basketball?
Leftwich: Watching kids grow up -- and seeing the ones you didn't think would make it prove you wrong and make it. Then there were some kids -- like [Wizards Coach] Eddie Jordan -- you always knew would make it, and they did. Most of all, I enjoyed working with high school kids, even more so than coaching in college.
I believe you can get closer to kids in high school and have more impact on their lives.
GS: Over nearly four decades of working with kids, what are the most significant changes?
Leftwich: Oh, boy, have they changed. The kids watch the highlight shows and try the behind-the-back, between-the-legs stuff. I tell them until they've earned their $20 million to learn the basics and cut out that stuff.
But there are so many things available for kids now. It's not easy keeping their feet on the ground. When I was coming up in this town you had one thing: sports. And that's what you did. So many of them now think making the great play and winning are the only things that are important.
I've tried to teach my players how to lose, as well as win. There's no stigma in losing a ballgame.
GS: What was your best team?
Leftwich: I think the 1972 Carroll team of Eddie Jordan, Skip McDaniels, Arthur Daniels, Ron Joiner and Al Dutch. That was a truly great team. But so were the Gwynn Park teams that won the Maryland titles in 1987 and 1988.
I also stay in touch with the guys I played with in high school at Carroll. We had a special team.