Hooton, a native of Greenville, Texas, spent his Major League career with the Chicago Cubs (1971-75), Los Angeles Dodgers (1975-84) and Texas Rangers (1985). On April 16, 1972, in his fourth Major League start, Hooton threw a no-hitter for the Cubs against the Philadelphia Phillies. He finished his Major League career with a 151-136 (.526) record with 1,491 strikeouts over 2,652 innings. Over 11 career postseason games, Hooton was 6-3 with a 3.17 ERA, including the 1981 postseason, in which Hooton was 5-1 with a 0.82 ERA in five starts for the World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers. Hooton was named both an All-Star and MVP of the National League Championship series that season.
He played collegiately at the University of Texas at Austin, putting together a career 35-3 record and a 1.14 ERA. Hooton earned first-team All-American honors in three consecutive seasons from 1969 to 1971. He was drafted second overall in the 1971 amateur draft by the Cubs, and did not play in the minor leagues prior to making his Major League Baseball debut.
Hooton retired after the 1985 season and returned to the University of Texas to earn his degree in broadcast journalism. He began his coaching career in the Dodgers organization in 1988 with the Class A Short-Season Salem (Oregon) Dodgers, working there for two seasons. He moved on to be the pitching coach of the Double-A San Antonio Missions from 1990-1994. During the 1995 and 1996 seasons, he worked in the same capacity for the Triple-A Albuquerque Dukes. Hooton served as the pitching coach at the University of Texas from 1997-1999. In the 2000 season he began the year as the pitching coach at Double-A Round Rock, a Houston Astros affiliate, before being named pitching coach of the major league club midway through the season. He remained in that capacity until the halfway point of the 2004 season. In 2005 he returned to Round Rock, Houston's Triple-A affiliate, as pitching coach until 2010, when Houston's Triple-A affiliation shifted to Oklahoma City, where he worked in the same position through the end of the 2012 season.
Hooton currently resides in San Antonio, Texas, with his wife, Ginger. They have a son, Gene, and a daughter, Layne.