Joe Gallagher (1920-2013) is regarded as one of the greatest coaches in the District’s rich high school sports history. At St. John’s, his alma mater, he served as a basketball, football and baseball coach, athletic director and history teacher from 1947 to 1991. In those 44 years at the Northwest Washington private school, Gallagher compiled an 870-292 record and two Washington Catholic Athletic Conference titles as basketball coach.
Just before his seventh year as boys’ basketball coach at St. John’s, Joe Gallagher decided to take a chance on a University of Maryland student, handing him the reins to the Cadets junior varsity basketball and football teams. That student, and fellow Washington Metropolitan Basketball Hall of Fame member, Morgan Wootten carefully studied Gallagher’s coaching style during his three years on staff, gleaning from Gallagher’s tough love approach and genuine concern for his student-athletes before taking the same approach to DeMatha in 1956 to start his own legendary coaching career. “He gave me my start in coaching and was a tremendous mentor who had an incredible impact on my life,” Wootten said of Gallagher. “We had a great rivalry through the years, and he was definitely the best coach that I ever coached against.” In 1961, Gallagher teamed with Wootten, his good friend and WCAC foe, to start the Metropolitan Area Basketball School, the nation’s first basketball day camp. In 2008, Gallagher was the recipient of the Morgan Wootten Lifetime Achievement Award from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.