Saying that his roots will always be in the Washington area, Morgan Wootten, De Matha High School basketball coach, rejected last night an offer from North Carolina State that would have doubled his annual earning power.
After mulling the move for more than a week, Wootten told Willis Casey, N.C. State athletic director, to withdraw his name as a candidate to succeed Norman Sloan, who resigned last month to move to the University of Florida.
Wootten and Casey had reached what sources had called "a strong verbal commitment" on terms of a five-year contract worth $700,000 with all side benefits included, if Wootten took the job.
Sources say State is interested in Purdue Coach Lee Rose. According to Casey, a search committee had interviewed no one, hoping that Wootten would accept the job at the Atlantic Coast Conference school.
"Despite a high respect for N.C. State and its program," Wootten said, "I have a strong preference to stay in the hometown where Kathy (his wife) and I grew up and are raising the family. Our roots are here."
Wootten, who makes about $70,000 annually as a coach, athletic director, history teacher, basketball camp co-director and clinic lecturer, said he decided he would have been a hypocrite to base his decision on money alone.
"During my analysis of the opportunity, I have been told of the money which would be involved and of the need to continue climbing mountains in my career," Wootten said. "As for money, I have always told my history students and basketball players that their top priorities in life should be God, family and education -- in that order.
"Money was never included and never has been the primary factor in my definition of happiness for myself and my family."
Wootten has five children, including three daughters between 11 and 15 years of age. He said only his 7-year-old son Joey voted to make the move. In addition, Wootten said his mother, mother-in-law, two sisters and "all my friends since the first grade" live in the Washington area.
Wootten said he went to De Matha yesterday, found a quiet room, put his reasons in writing and made his final decision to stay at the place where he has become known as the John Wooden of high school coaches.
"It's the toughest decision I've ever made," Wootten said. "I wanted to step back and make sure I had the proper priorities in the right order. I asked myself, 'why would I go?' I answered, 'The money only if I was convinced the move was better for my family entirely.'"
Wootten also said he preferred the challenge of teaching high school youngsters rather than college students. But he left open the possibility that he would be interested in an area college job, such as Maryland's, if it ever opens.
"As for climbing mountains," he said, "they are where you find them. Anytime I help a student in one of my classes get a better start during his formative years and touch the life of one of my basketball players, I feel I have climbed another mountain. That's the kind I prefer climbing."
Does that mean he will finish his career at De Matha?
"I never say never," he said. "It's not in the cards now. I'm a Washingtonian, my roots are here and I'm not going to leave the area."
There had been speculation that if Maryland's Lefty Driesell had not turned his program around this season, the school would have bought out the remaining four years of Driesell's perpetual five-year contract and bring Wootten down Rte. 1 from Hyattsville to College Park.