The list of candidates from which DeMatha will select its new head basketball coach has been trimmed to three, search committee chairman Joe Leginus said yesterday.

Leginus declined to name those in the running to replace Hall of Famer Morgan Wootten on a permanent basis, but several sources close to the school confirmed that last season's interim coach Mike Jones, Bullis Coach Mike Hibbs and former Dunbar coach Gary Lampkins will be interviewed.

DeMatha received 11 applications for the position, arguably the nation's highest-profile high school coaching job. The interview process is set to begin next week and the school hopes to have a new coach in place by mid- to late April, Leginus said. Wootten retired after 46 seasons, 1,274 victories and 33 Catholic league championships last November.

Under Jones, a 1991 DeMatha graduate and former star player, the Stags went 15-17, recording six more losses than in Wootten's worst season when he went 17-11 in 1957-58. But DeMatha staged a stunning rally in the postseason, knocking off then-No. 11 O'Connell in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference quarterfinals and coming three points short of a trip to the championship game against Paul VI. The Stags also boast a bevy of talented underclassmen, most of whom were recruited by Jones.

"I'm a DeMatha guy through and through," said Jones, who is also the Hyattsville private school's director of admissions. "All of my intentions are for the good of this school. I'm not saying I'm owed anything, but I'd like another chance. The committee is going to choose who they think is the right man for the job. I can only hope I'm that person."

Hibbs (DeMatha class of 1980) taught English and coached freshman and junior varsity basketball at DeMatha in the late 1980s and early '90s, going 105-2 as a head coach. Hibbs, who has often been mentioned as a possible successor to Wootten in the past, took over the basketball program at Bullis in 1992 and has won three Interstate Athletic Conference titles in the past four seasons.

Hibbs and Lampkins could not be reached for comment.

The 12-member search committee, which is composed of alumni, former athletes, coaches and parents, will make its recommendations to DeMatha's advisory board. The board will take the suggestions to the Trinitarians, the school's board of trustees. The Trinitarians will make the final decision.

Wootten declined an invitation to join the committee because he did not want to choose between former players or assistant coaches, he said.

"The way the team rallied late this season was great," Wootten said. "Jones deserves a lot of the credit for that. . . . Mike Hibbs is also a wonderful coach and has done a tremendous job at Bullis. They got some great candidates so I don't know how they could go wrong."