WASHINGTON — Legendary broadcaster James Brown is best known for his voice and presence on The NFL Today show, where he has been since 2005. But as a teen from Washington D.C., it was Hall of Fame coach Morgan Wootten that gave him the skills to succeed.
With the news of Wootten's passing on Tuesday, Brown, who worked for WUSA9 in the '80s, reflected on the DeMatha Catholic High School coach that won five national championships and 22 D.C. titles.
"All the lessons that he taught each of his players, prepared us for the game of life," Brown said.
Brown's finest story of Wootten was of how the 46-year head coach from DeMatha helped him become a great player on the court, and how he saw something in him that Brown didn't see in himself.
"I could barely make a layup," Brown said. "As a matter of fact, in middle school, when they introduced the basketball team to the student body, we were supposed to run the link of the court and make a layup. I blew it. Nobody was even guarding me. But coach saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. He said, 'you got the talent, just tell me how good you want to be.'"
Brown told Wootten that he wanted to be the best, an All-American. Wootten broke down what Brown would have to do, day in and day out, to be the best.
While Brown's dreams of having a long career in the NBA did not happen, he was a great player because of Wootten.
Brown went on to become an All-Ivy League player at Harvard in three of the four seasons he played for the Crimson, and was captain his senior year; Brown was one of five Harvard captains that Wootten coached.
"He was just an awesome motivator," Brown said. "Not once did he ever utter a profanity at any of his players to motivate us, and he got the best out of us because there was mutual respect."
Now, Brown is a legend, just like his coach, but in the broadcasting field.
His voice has been heard over the airwaves of sporting events like the Olympics, NBA Finals, college basketball, NFL games, Major League Baseball and more.
Wootten may not be in the booth, or on set, with Brown, but he says the way he prepares for his job is a reflection of how great his former coach was.
"Morgan was an awesome coach," Brown said. "He befriended some of the icons of the business of basketball of way back when. From Frank Iva and John Wooden, to Dean Smith who has passed on, as well as the current coaches like Mike Krzyzewski. But Morgan was the high school version of all these guys."
It's high praise from Brown about Wootten. But he's not alone -- the coach was highly revered throughout the sport.
"I know of no finer coach at any level – high school, college or pro. I stand in awe of him," the late John Wooden said of Wootten in an interview with the St. Petersburg Times.
It doesn't take long to scroll through social media and see that Brown's experience with Wootten is one of many that make up a legend, whose faith and convictions guided him on and off the court.