LEGENDARY coach Speedy Morris always says it’s all about the kids.
On Tuesday, it was all about him.
The Naismith Memorial Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced that Morris — the head coach at St. Joseph’s Prep — is the winner of the 2017 Morgan Wootten Award for Lifetime Achievement in Coaching High School Basketball.
The award — given out each year since 2013 — recognizes an outstanding boys’ and girls’ high school coach. It is named after Wootten, who was the head coach of DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Md., for 46 years.
“It’s a great honor,” said Morris, who has been a head coach at several schools for 49 years. “I know Morgan and I know what he stands for, so I appreciate it.”
Morris, 74, started his head-coaching career at Roman Catholic High School, where his teams went 347-82 from 1967-1981. From there, he went on to Penn Charter, where he went 41-14 from 1982-84. He then took over the La Salle University women’s team (43-17 from 1984-86) before moving over to the men’s team and compiling a 238-203 record from 1986-2001). His La Salle men’s teams reached the postseason six times, including four NCAA appearances. His 1989-90 team, which included national player of the year Lionel Simmons, finished 30-2 and was ranked No. 12 in the nation. The Explorers were the No. 4 seed in the East in the NCAA Tournament that year, losing to Clemson in the second round.
In 2002, he became the head coach at the St. Joe’s Prep, where he is 321-109.
All told, he has won eight Catholic League titles (six at Roman, two at the Prep) and one Inter-Ac championship at Penn Charter. He is the only high school coach in Pennsylvania to win 300 games at two schools, according to basketball historian Bill Gaffey.
He has been inducted into 11 halls of fame, including the Pennsylvania State Hall of Fame, the La Salle University Hall of Athletes, the Big 5 Hall of Fame and the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame.
He is the winningest coach in Catholic League history and has the best winning percentage of any coach in Roman and La Salle women’s history.
This year’s women’s winner of the Wootten Award is Marcia Pinder, who has guided Dillard High, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to over 900 wins and nine state championships in 40 years.
“When it comes to winning, these coaches certainly know how to get the job done,” Wootten said of Morris and Pinder. “The Philadelphia and Fort Lauderdale communities are fortunate to have such dedicated leaders and mentors available to their student athletes.
Wootten will present the awards at the Basketball Hall of Fame luncheon on March 29 in Chicago.