Taking over the Knights
Waldorf resident Booth hired as SMR head boys hoops coach
Walter Booth has coached at the high school, club and collegiate levels and now he’ll step behind the bench at St. Mary’s Ryken High School after recently being named the school’s varsity head boys basketball coach.
Booth replaces former head coach Patrick Behan, who stepped down to take the same position at St. John’s College High School in Washington, D.C. Both teams play in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference.
“I’m extremely excited,” said the 32-year-old Waldorf resident as he sat in the school’s bleachers late Monday morning. “I know what this program’s done in the past and they’ve been very successful under [former] coach [Dave] Tallman and coach Behan. They’ve helped a lot of kids play at various levels and I’m just excited to try and take this program to the next level. It definitely felt like a perfect fit. I’ve always wanted to have my own high school program and to be able to play in the WCAC against good competition like DeMatha and Gonzaga was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”
“We are very pleased to have coach Booth join the St. Mary’s Ryken community and lead the boys basketball program,” SMR athletic director B.J. Pumroy said Thursday in a school news release announcing Booth’s hiring. “His experience at the collegiate, high school and club levels will help keep our Knights as top competitors for the WCAC title.”
Last year, the Knights won nine of their first 10 games to start the season and finished 16-14 overall (a sixth-place 9-9 in the WCAC). They were upended up St. John’s in the quarterfinals of the WCAC tournament and the season ended with a loss to Capitol Christian of Prince George’s County in the quarterfinal round of the Mar yland Independent schools state tournament.
The Knights lose three seniors in Raidell Du pree, Donovan Steward and Chris Greene, but will return four juniors, including standout guard Wynston Tabbs.
“I think we’ll have a great group, starting with a kid like Wynston,” Booth said. “He’s very talented and it will be great to start with someone like that as a leader, someone who’s been around and who knows what it takes to win in the WCAC. I’m really excited about this group and I think we can be successful right away. I want to be able to
compete and be on top of the conference in the WCAC. I set lofty goals and for me I always take the underdog approach, but the program’s going to put in a lot of work to try and outwork the competition.”
Both has coached at various levels but said working with high schoolers has its definite advantages.
“They don’t have [bad] habits that have formed throughout the years, so it’s easier because you can teach them good habits,” he said. “You can build them up in the right
direction. [And] with the age it’s huge years for development both on and off the court, so it’s such a special time for them.”
Both said his coaching style consists of speed and versatility.
“I really like an up-tempo system,” he said. “I predicate it on defense, [and then] 94 feet getting up [the court] to the offense and making teams uncomfortable. That way it kind of opens it up offensively and [that] gets the floor spread and [players are] able to share in the play and see multiple guys be aggressive and attack. I’m a motivator and I definitely want to be a leader and I try to be hands-on. I look at myself
as a teacher on the court.”
Booth transferred from Washington, D.C.-based Gonzaga College High School to The Heights School in Montgomery County following his sophomore year, during which he underwent a growth spurt from 5-foot8 to 6-2. His senior year, the team compiled a 21-9 record as an independent, during which Booth averaged 21 points and eight rebounds per game.
A preferred walk-on at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Booth was a two-year starter and co-captain his 12th-grade year. He led the Aggies in assists his junior and senior year and led the team
in minutes his senior season.
He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business management and started a succession of coaching jobs. He was an assistant coach at The Bullis School in Montgomery County for a season, then served as an assistant at North Carolina A&T from 2008 to 2012. During his time with the Aggies, he helped sign 12 players, including former St. Mary’s Ryken standout R.J. Buck, who was recently named Patuxent High School’s new head boys basketball coach.
According to June 22 release announcing Booth’s press release, the Aggies’ Class of 2010 was named
the best recruiting class in the Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference by ESPN.
He was an assistant coach at Takoma Academy in Montgomery County for a year, assistant coach at Bowie High School in Prince George’s County for two seasons and last year he was an assistant coach at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, where he was the first ever full-time assistant coach for the Seahawks. He also served as the college’s assistant director of game operations.
He previously spent a year as a regional scout for the Orlando Magic, coached the D.C. Blue Devils 17-and-Under AAU team and was an assistant on the 16-U team that included Markelle Fultz, the first pick in this year’s NBA draft.
He said venturing into coaching always seemed like the natural thing for him to do.
“I’ve always been kind of a gym rat. Even from my younger days I stayed in the gym even when I wasn’t playing [and] was watching, evaluating,” he said, “so after I finished my playing days it was kind of like a natural evolution of me being around the game and coaching.”
He currently owns the District Basketball Club, an AAU organization that fields three teams of 15- to 17-year-olds.
Walter Booth, a Waldorf resident, was recently named head boys varsity basketball coach at St. Mary’s Ryken High School.