The Elks Hoop Shoot is the proud sponsor of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s annual Morgan Wootten Lifetime Achievement Award. The sponsorship is the latest collaboration between the Hoop Shoot and the Hall of Fame, a partnership that has endured for more than 35 years.
Since 2007, the Hall of Fame has awarded two Wootten Awards annually to boys and girls high school coaches who have dedicated their lives to the betterment of student athletes. The award is named for Morgan Wootten, a legendary high school basketball coach enshrined at the Hall of Fame.
Former NBA coach Red Auerbach spoke at Wootten’s enshrinement ceremony. He highlighted what made Wootten an exceptional coach—his control, discipline, respect for his players and his love of the game.
“You hear about coaches, when they win it’s fine; when they lose, they build character,” Auerbach said. “Well Morgan Wootten, he built character whether he won or whether he lost.”
Wootten died in January 2020, but his legacy as the most successful high school coach in basketball history lives on in the world of the game and programs like the Hoop Shoot, which, much like Wootten, develops gritty kids.
The Hoop Shoot has been a vehicle for strengthening the values of hard work, perseverance and goal setting for 50 years; Wootten did the same for nearly as long—he coached for 46 years.
Every year, six of 72 Finalists win a National Championship, and their names are inscribed at the Hall of Fame. The rest go on to try again—bouncing back from the defeat. But, every Finalist—Champion or not—leaves the contest with a stronger sense of resilience and grit.
“It’s often been said that you learn more from losing than you do from winning,” Wootten said. “I think, if you’re wise, you learn from both. You learn a lot from a loss. You learn what is it that we’re not doing to get to where we want to go. It really gets your attention, and it really motivates the work ethic of your team when you’re not doing well.”
Wootten was a dedicated educator who took pride in supporting youth in the pursuit of their goals, much like the Elks do.
Wootten sought athletes who weren’t just promising on the court but promising in the classroom, too. He coached players who were good students, and he instilled the value of forming a strong work ethic and discipline in everything they did.
“That’s the beauty of coaching,” Wootten said. “You get to touch lives; you get to make a difference.”
The 2020 Wootten Award recipients are boys’ basketball coach Freddy Johnson from Greensboro Day School in North Carolina and girls’ basketball coach Jill Prudden from Oak Ridge High School in Tennessee.
The Elks Hoop Shoot is the proud sponsor of the Wootten Lifetime Achievement Award. High school coaches are pillars in the community, just like the Elks, and they're working to prepare their players for life. Just like the Hoop Shoot. Step up to the line at elks.org/HoopShoot. Learn more about Wootten here.