Morgan Wootten, head basketball coach at De Matha high school in Hyattsville, Md., will meet with North Carolina State officials this week, perhaps as soon as Tuesday, to discuss the vacancy created by Norman Sloan's departure for Florida.
According to N.C. State officials, Wootten is the leading candidate for the job. "As far as the athletic department is concerned, he's the only candidate," one source said today.
What's more, Wootten, 48, who has disdained numerous college offers in the past, is interested in the job. Earlier this week he said he definitely would be willing to talk to State officials, labeling it "one of the top jobs in the country."
"There has been no official contact at this point," Wootten said today while preparing his team for the Washington City championship game against Spingarn. Scheduled today at Cole Field House, the game was post-poned until Tuesday because of snow.
"Norm has recommended me. Several alumni have called. Hawkeye Whitney (former De Matha star and a state senior) is on the selection committee and has publicly endorsed me. I've been told by several people that I am the No. 1 choice.
"N.C. State is a great school, although I'm extremely happy here. But maybe I've been too closed-minded in the past. I'm trying to be as open-minded as possible this time. It comes down to what's best for my family. They're the jury.
"If the offer were right, it's something I'd give some very heavy consideration. I'll sit down Monday and consider it."
Since arriving at De Matha in 1956, Wootten teams have posted 649 wins and 91 losses. His teams have won four national and five national Catholic championships, plus more than 50 tournament titles. His 1977-78 team went undefeated.
Three of Wootten's former De Matha players are currently at State. Whitney is graduating, but Sidney Lowe and Derek Whittenburg are both freshman. On the cover of Wootten's recently published autobiography is a picture of the coach with two of his players: Lowe and Whittenburg.
The one snag at the moment apparently is university Chancellor Joab Thomas, who has said that he wants an established major-college coach to succeed Sloan. Wootten never has coached in college.
Reportedly, Athletic Director Willis Casey is calling Wootten to Raleigh this week as much to meet Thomas and win his confidence as anything else.
State officials say they expect to have a coach signed in no more than two weeks and perhaps as little time as a week. And, some say Wootten is the man right now. "Unless Thomas puts his foot down, Morgan can have the job," one State source said today. "We should know soon."
"Norm has operated on a handshake for 14 years," Wootten said. "I have a lifetime contract at De Matha. I'm not going to give that up for a one-year handshake."