Pop quiz: Name the seven Washington-area high school basketball head coaches with 20 years or more experience.
Morgan Wootten (DeMatha), Joe Gallagher (St. John's), Red Jenkins (W.T. Woodson), Don McCool (Mount Vernon) and Gene Doane (Seneca Valley) might come easily to mind, but what about the other two? Stumped?
Don't feel bad. Not many people realize that Dick Wickline of Jefferson and Tom George of Woodward, who may not be as celebrated as the first five but are recognized among the top coaches in the area by their peers, have been around so long.
Why is it only seven head coaches from the 1966 season still serve in that capacity today? What has motivated these seven to stay on after so many others have thrown in the towel? How has the game changed since they were introduced to basketball 30 to 50 years ago?
The answers are as different for each of the coaches, but several consistent themes, such as the enjoyment of working with young adults, giving something back to the game and making a difference with how some students turn out in life, seem to make the long hours, frequent frustration and roller coaster emotions worthwhile.
The walls of Wickline's office contain the team pictures of his Jefferson and Falls Church basketball teams dating back to 1962. Now, after 23 seasons, he admits, " . . . I don't remember the games, but I never forget any of the people."
Fifty years ago, Gallagher was a three-sport schoolboy sensation at St. John's and later became one of George Washington's greatest players. Since 1946, he's been basketball coach at St. John's. Now in his 60s, it's hard to imagine anyone else leading the Cadets.
Doane is hoarse. Nothing special, he's hoarse every February. It happens when you scream at your team for two hours every day.
Occasionally, one scholastic basketball coach in a million like DeMatha's Wootten earns a national reputation and makes big money from summer camps, coaching clinics and product endorsements, but most veteran coaches must settle for intangible rewards.
Although another tiring season may be drawing to a close for the others, George must muster enough energy to get through the baseball season. Not only is he one of the rare two-decade basketball coaches, but he is also part of another dying breed by coaching three different sports.
Of the more than 150 high schools in the Washington area, Gallagher's 40 years of service by far leads the list of basketball coaches. He is followed by Wootten (30 years), Jenkins (28), McCool (27), Doane (26), Wickline (24) and George (20).
"I guess you become addicted to coaching," said Wickline, who started at Falls Church in 1962 and moved to Jefferson two years later. "Coaching is a little different, a little harder now, but there'll always be the other benefits: working with kids, watching them grow and develop.
"I asked myself several years ago why I'd stayed so long in one place. I decided that it was the continuity, being there every year for the kids and being a source of stability in their lives. Like it or not, this is the place and coaching is the role where I can make my greatest contribution."
The game of basketball has changed dramatically since the 1960s, and nowhere are the differences more apparent than in the scholastic ranks.
"Basketball is so much more intricate than it used to be," said Wickline. "The influence of television brings the newest strategy right into their living rooms each night. Kids are bigger and quicker, but there are not as many who are as dedicated as there used to be. Too many don't feel it's worth it to play a game if they can't be the star or at least a starter."
George is the only basketball coach in Woodward's 20-year history. He is also the only scholastic head coach in the Washington area who pulls triple-duty in the major sports of football, basketball and baseball.
"Twenty years does take its toll I guess," George said. "But I had been a varsity basketball coach in Pennsylvania for nine years before I started at Woodward, so that really makes me a veteran.
"Coaching three sports isn't easy, but if I hadn't taken baseball over this year, then someone else from outside the school would have had to do it. I guess it's my allegiance to Woodward that keeps me going," George said. "That, and my wife being a saint for letting me keep at it."
George agrees that basketball players today are quicker and more talented than two decades ago.
"Today's game is faster, unlike the half-court offenses of the past," said George. "Back then, hardly anyone could dunk a basketball."
But not everything has changed for the better.
"We've always been blessed with a good group of kids here at Woodward, but things are different now because of multiple outlets available to students," George said. "There's skiing and a number of other recreational opportunities that attracts potential players. As a result, crowd attendance is down and there doesn't seem to be as much school spirit as in the past."
Gallagher remembers the days of the two-hand set shot and the 6-foot "big man," but he's flexible enough to remain on top of the game even after five decades as a player and coach.
"Nowadays, coaches use multiple defenses and offenses. If something's not working for them, they're not going to stay with it and get blown out," said Gallagher. "The players also focus on one sport early and then specialize. There aren't many three-sport athletes anymore. Now they go to summer camps and clinics and work on their game continuously."
Doane looks, acts and sounds like a basketball coach.
"The game has changed in some ways and the players are more talented, but it's still basketball," said Doane, a graduate of Montgomery Blair and the University of Maryland and a coach at Sherwood and Blair before moving to Seneca Valley eight years ago.
"Too many people try to run and gun instead of playing under control these days, but it's not the fault of the players. The coaches only seem to want to emulate the pros, even if they don't have the talent.
"Even after all these years, there's still the competition. Working with youngsters and teaching them are special rewards, but the thrill of winning and distaste for losing only seems to grow stronger."
Mount Vernon's Don McCool grew up in West Virginia and played high school basketball there before attending Marietta College in Ohio.
"Yes, I learned West Virginia-style basketball before Jerry West made it famous," joked McCool, who has coached at West Springfield, Hayfield, Falls Church and Mount Vernon. "That pressure defense and fast-break offense was what I grew up with and learned. That's what I teach my teams and it hasn't really changed much in 30 years."
The players are bigger, diets may be better and perhaps coaches are a bit more sophisticated, McCool concedes, but basketball is still a game of quickness. "The only difference now is that your quick man might be 6-10," he said.
McCool cites his devotion to the game and the enjoyment he derives from working with young people as the reason he's still riding the bench every Tuesday and Friday night each winter.
"Winning helps -- don't let anyone tell you differently. It assures you that you're doing the right things, but winning by itself doesn't mean much. The money really isn't a factor either. The competition and the chance to help young people grow up the right way are more important motivators for me. Plus I really love the game. Basketball has given so much to me. It helped me go to college. I just want to repay some of what it gave me.
"Also, remember there's a bit of a little boy in every coach who can't give up the game."
Fervor and intensity are usually the province of the young and inexperienced, but Red Jenkins' competitive fires only seem to grow with each season.
"We've got to save the high school game," said the W.T. Woodson coach. "Here in Northern Virginia and throughout the country, the game of high school basketball is in decline. The crowds are way down and it's our fault. Sports is a form of entertainment and we have to realize that fact and do something about it to make our product more competitive."
Jenkins, who graduated from Mount Vernon High and George Washington, began his coaching career with the Gonzaga freshmen in 1959. Three years later at 25, he was named head coach at Woodson, a job he's held ever since. He's built the Cavaliers into a traditional area power, but is 6-11 this season. One of his big concerns now is the slide in high school attendance, and he has some innovative ideas on how to stem the tide.
"Why not change the games back to Friday and Saturday nights like we used to have them?" he said. "Many parents don't want their children staying out late on a school night and I can understand that. We play three games within four days at playoff time, so why not consider weekend games?
"We also need some sort of 30- or 45-second shot clock," Jenkins said. "We've legislated ourselves into producing a boring game. People want a more exciting game with more scoring."
Jenkins cites integration as a big change from the basketball of 30 years ago. "Black players have radically altered how the game is played," he said. "They've helped introduce better players with more speed and size to the game."
Looking back on his long career, he cautions that records alone shouldn't be the criteria of a successful coach.
"This might be the best I've ever coached this season, but the record doesn't reflect that," Jenkins said. "Win-loss records are relative to the competitive level of your league and the caliber of your players. Look at Dick Wickline. He's probably the best coach in Northern Virginia, but his teams have never won a state title."
For 30 years, Morgan Wootten has taught world history at DeMatha. Considered by many to be the most successful high school coach in the country, he still thinks of himself as a teacher first.
"The basketball court is just an extension of the classroom," said Wootten, who notched his 800th victory earlier this season. "I want to make sure that my players have their priorities straight. I believe that it should be God, family, school, and only then basketball."
Wootten has been approached by many colleges, reportedly including Georgetown and North Carolina State, about switching to the college game, but he's satisfied to stay at DeMatha.
"I enjoy teaching and working with high school students," he said. "I love DeMatha and having my summers off to run clinics and travel with my family."
Wootten said there have always been great players, but today, there are many more of them.
"Our (Metro) conference is like a mini-ACC," Wootten said. "The great ones from the old days would still be great by today's standards, but there's a lot more competition."