Morgan Wootten's basketball legacy can be seen on the banners hanging inside DeMatha's cozy gymnasium and inside the glass trophy cases lining the walls of the school. One of his greatest legacies, however, works for one of the Stags' rivals, 15 miles south in Arlington.
"I learned a lot from him," Bishop O'Connell Coach Joe Wootten said yesterday, one day after his Hall of Fame father, Morgan, retired after an unparalleled 46-year career at DeMatha. "He taught me how to run a program, how to be successful, how to treat people and how to communicate with players. I also learned how to evaluate personnel, and base your X's and O's on the players you have."
Joe Wootten played for his father at DeMatha and then served as his top assistant for three years. But when his father was unable to hand the post to his son three years ago, it appeared to put a chill in the relationship between the school and the Woottens. Joe was conspicuously absent from his father's retirement announcement in DeMatha's library on Wednesday.
"It's just I felt that it was his day, not mine," Joe Wootten said. "I'm the head coach at O'Connell, so my place was not there."
After three seasons at O'Connell, Joe Wootten has begun to make his mark, separate from his father and DeMatha. When he took the head coaching job at age 26, the O'Connell program was in disrepair, having gone 6-20 and lost the DeMatha by "30 or 40" points, Joe Wootten said.
But since Wootten's arrival, the Knights have played a national schedule and gone 63-33, including a 30-7 mark last season.
"I used [not getting the DeMatha job] as motivation," Wootten said. "Everyone said that there was no way we were going to win at O'Connell. But we've turned around the program."
Now, Joe Wootten will start the 2002-03 season much like his father did countless times -- with one of the most talented teams in the Washington area, a favorite to win the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference.
"I'm proud of what my dad accomplished at DeMatha," Joe Wootten said. "But we're building our own program here at O'Connell."
Morgan's teams won seven of eight meetings against Joe's over the past three seasons. But the tone of the rivalry changed last Jan. 5, when O'Connell defeated DeMatha for the first time, 62-61. O'Connell sent a clear message to the DeMatha on that chilly night in Hyattsville: The Stags were no longer guaranteed to beat the Knights.
"Joe has done a great job and proved he can do it on his own," Morgan Wootten said Wednesday. "I'm just glad I don't have to face him anymore. They were our toughest opponent of all the teams we faced last year."
DeMatha had one of its best seasons ever in 2001-02, racking up a 32-3 record, the WCAC championship, the City Title and the prestigious Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament. But Joe and his upstart O'Connell team never went away -- DeMatha and O'Connell met in the WCAC final and for the title at Alhambra, where father beat son, 68-63, in what turned out to be Morgan's final game.
"The only way I would have cherished that game," Joe Wootten said with a chuckle, "was if I had beat him."