Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Greatest KU games No. 2: Danny and the Miracles

Kansas University assistant coach Danny Manning starred on the 1987-88 Jayhawks, who won the national championship, 83-79 against Oklahoma.

Kansas University assistant coach Danny Manning starred on the 1987-88 Jayhawks, who won the national championship, 83-79 against Oklahoma.


Editor’s note: This is the ninth story in the Journal-World’s series of top 10 games in Kansas University hoops history. Introducing No. 2:

Twenty-two years. A long time. Bodies are thicker and hair is thinner. Memories tend to grow wispier, too.

But it really happened. Kansas University really did win the 1988 NCAA men’s basketball championship.


Danny Manning and Larry Brown embrace after clinching the 1988 Men’s NCAA Basketball title.


Kansas basketball: In pursuit of 2,000

KU’s men’s basketball program is approaching a major milestone. Keep an eye on their progress and look back at what got the Jayhawks there.

In today’s culture of powerful, nationally ranked KU teams, it’s difficult to comprehend that the ’88 team wasn’t overloaded with talent, certainly nothing like the edition you’ve watched this winter.

Bill Self has so many quality players, he doesn’t need a meal ticket. If one of Self’s starters is having a bad game, he can count on another starter or even a bench player to pick up the slack.

Larry Brown didn’t have that luxury back in March of 1988 when the Jayhawks went into the NCAA Tournament with 11 losses, a No. 6 seed and a handful of regulars no longer around for one reason or another.

Read the original

• Read Gary Bedore's original story from the No. 2 greatest game in KU history.

But Brown did have Danny Manning and Manning was his Secretariat, a thoroughbred who could carry the load to the end of the road. That’s exactly what Manning did, scoring 31 points and grabbing 18 boards in the stunning 83-79 triumph over Oklahoma in the championship game, and etching his name forever into Mount Oread lore.

Manning’s terrific title game overshadowed a remarkable overall tournament performance, six games in which the 6-foot-10 senior averaged 27.2 points and 9.3 rebounds.

That 31-point outburst against Oklahoma wasn’t even his high-water mark. He had 38 against Vanderbilt. Otherwise, Manning scored 25 points against both Murray State and Duke, 24 against Xavier and 20 against Kansas State.

So awe-inspiring was Manning that it’s difficult to imagine him ever missing a shot. He did, though. Manning missed 44.8 percent of them. But that’s like saying a baseball player made an out in 70 percent of his at-bats. In basketball, 55.2 percent shooting is over-the-top.

The other starters on that history-making team were Chris Piper, Milt Newton, Kevin Pritchard and Jeff Gueldner.

It’s a bit ironic that Manning and Piper can still be found at KU men’s basketball games — Manning as an assistant coach and Piper as the analyst on the Jayhawk Network radio broadcasts.

It’s also interesting to note that Pritchard and Newton are both NBA executives — Pritchard GM of the Portland Trailblazers; Newton personnel director of the Washington Wizards — even though neither enjoyed much more than a cup of coffee as NBA players.

Also noteworthy is that Manning’s son Evan is a basketball player at Free State High and Pritchard’s son K.J., who lives here with his mother, is on the Lawrence High basketball roster. Along the same lines, current KU player Chase Buford is a son of R.C. Buford, one of Brown’s assistants that season.

Oh, and one more connection. The student assistant on Brown’s staff was Mark Turgeon, now head coach at Texas A&M.;

In my mind, the most unusual aspect of those ’88 champions involved the team picture. Six of the players pictured did not suit during the NCAA Tournament. Two were being red-shirted, two were booted by Brown, one suffered a season-ending injury and the other was declared ineligible at the semester.

To fill out the roster, Brown added a couple of football players — defensive back Clint Normore and linebacker Marvin Mattox. Normore scored seven points off the bench in the title game, but Mattox didn’t play.

Nevertheless, it was Mattox who uttered one of the most memorable comments after the Jayhawks won.

Asked how he felt, Mattox gushed: “This is better than birth.”


gardenjay 11 years, 3 months ago

OK, it is fitting that I be the first to comment on this, my favorite team, of all time. You cannot tell me this is #2 on your list.

This team earned the hearts of Lawrencians, even the old folks home came out for the parade in wheel chairs after the final game. There was such a build-up after each win, and finally Oklahoma at that time was SO confident, so obviously over-confident when looking at their bench and packed with studs, that the game, even if one didn't care for basketball at all, reminded one of the first Rocky movie, except that not only does Rocky get the girl and the respect of the whole country, he wins the game too. I remember the noise after the last game at 2AM not subsiding; Lawrence was absolutely alive in every alley, every home off-campus. That night it bridged cultural gaps; it bridged gaps between professors and students. Policemen headed up to the hill to celebrate along with everyone else, which was quite amazing. All the stops came out from KU alums in the ensuing celebration, including the importation of Cinderella for the parade down Mass (really! from Disneyland) and a super-cool flyover of some weird experimental aircraft. I hope KU's aerospace engineering program is still as strong as it was then, because more of those fly-overs would be cool, and I don't mean the B-1 flyover that scares the crap out of everyone, something elegant and mind-boggling like the one in '88.

It is exciting to have our beloved KU coached by Mr. Manning, the star from '88, and continue all the history.

But that '88 team will always be #1 for me. Danny's Mom made him get a 4-year degree as I recall. Not many turn down that kind of money to complete their degrees. How can you not admire a guy like that? I keep hoping to hear that Cole has somehow finished enough coursework to get a degree and walk down the hill with the other students. Maybe by doing summer courses? Also, Collins will get a degree - that is really the best thing about college B-ball. This will be a fun month, I can smell it in the air.......

yates33333 11 years, 3 months ago

Newton and Pritchard were fine basketball players, and Piper and Gueldner were good role players. The idea that they were "The Miracles" is disgusting, something the media maniacs like Vitale created. Manning was certainly one of the great college players of all times, but his teammates were not slouches. Remember Oscar Robinson, no one called his teammates miracles when they won two national championships. As we shall learn again this year, it takes good luck, the breaks, favorable referees besides ability to win a national championship. 1988 was compensation for 1985 When the best team in KU history lost in the final four.

Code_2008 11 years, 3 months ago

I'm guessing #1 is either 2008 Title Game or the 1953 3OT loss Title Game.

bbeckum 11 years, 3 months ago

Yates: I totally agree with you about the 88 team being a TEAM. However, because Danny Manning was so dominant in that final game--ripping down rebound after rebound and seeming to will the ball into the basket--those folks who only watch college hoops during the tourney (or worse, the final four) concluded that KU had one terrific players and a bunch of guys just filling out uniforms. I remember Normore making huge, timely buckets during the tourney (and doing a bit of football-syle enforcing too). I'd watched OU dismantle Louisville that year in the regional. Everyone talked about how OU played no defense, but in that game, Louisville went like five minutes without advancing the ball past half court against OU's pressure defense. OU scored on most of those turnovers and blew the game wide open. It was one of the most dominating defensive performances I've ever seen. And finally, I'm not sure the term miracles is as demeaning to the team as it seems to us KU fans. It's not Danny and the No-names. I think Miracles refers to the fact that they'd had an average season, pulled off upset after upset and lets not forget the "miraculous" clock incident at Kemper.

farnamjayhawk 11 years, 3 months ago

A few items to note about this article:

1- This game should be #1 since the tradition we see at KU now would not have happened without this game. 2- I wish this article would have talked about the game itself. What an awesome first half! 50-50 3- I still have my 64-62= Big 8 t-shirt. (Don't even ask if it still fits)

Steve Brown 11 years, 3 months ago

Yates '85 team best in KU history, agreed.

1988 alignment of the planets.Rematch with Mitch Richmond and KState in Detroit to get to KC. Final Four game one we destroyed DUKE out of the gate much like UNC couple years ago when we got of to hot start. FInal game Billy Tubbs and dreaded Oklahoma. What a game, Piper played great defense on Stacie King that night. We had our lucky bus driver for the team ride from hotel to Kemper. so many memories.

Today we take for granted final fours are played in football stadiums and it's nice to recall the time when they were in Kemper and Reunion Dallas. The game is bigger now as everyone in the country studies bracketology.


Carter Patterson 11 years, 3 months ago

It was the 86 team that was beat by Duke / Hightower in the Final Four. The 85 team lost to Auburn in the 2nd round if I remember correctly. I remember in 88 after losing 3 home games how Larry Brown started giving a lot more minutes to everybody including guys like Scooter Barry. These guys stepped up, played hard and stayed fresh. It built a late season chemistry that was not there at the beginning. Kudos to Coach Brown.

Best KU team of all time not to make it though....86? Probaby, but 97 was good also.

Steve Brown 11 years, 3 months ago

carter correct 1985-86 team was simply awesome. 1997 as well.

Great programs have a few heartbreak losses. Is it safe to say ours are Wilt '57, 1986 Archie fluke knee injury when we are leading Dookies in Final Four and then the '97 team. Glad our top ten wins out number our few heartbreaks.

Let's hope this year in St. Louis we don't get another one from Maryland, Mich State, Wisconsin, Pitt or Louisville.

farnamjayhawk 11 years, 3 months ago

The game in Dallas against Duke would not have even been close if the 3-point line had been in use then. I believe it was implemented the next year in 87. Ron Kellogg didn't shoot from closer than 23 feet and he was lighting it up that day.

Jayhawk444 11 years, 3 months ago

The Kemper clock incident was also in 86. I was at that game. And if I might change the subject for a minute - what people forget is that even though the clock stopped during a KU comeback, the end result of the confusion was a technical foul called on Brown sending 90% free throw shooter Scott Skiles to the line. The media likes to say KU won because of help from the clock...but that not how it went down.

Joel Hood 11 years, 3 months ago

I'm not offended by the name miracles, but it sticks. A more accurate name would be Danny and the over-achievers - but that name sucks.

Milt, Scooter, Pipe, Gueldner, Pritchard & Normore all had great moments against better athletes. Pipe's low post defense on King was a clinic in footwork - Stacey was very frustrated by him. Other guys hit big shots at critical moments and no one gave up. Pritchard & Gueldner played so smart & Milt blossomed during that stretch.

I think it's too bad that the 1988 NCAA run and OU game is typically characterized as "Danny carrying the team." In fact, it was that team that put Danny in position to dominate the game.

Dick Murdock 11 years, 3 months ago

"Lawrencians" - I'm still laughing out loud! Good points otherwise.

Tim Bingaman 11 years, 3 months ago

I preferred during the '88 tourney when the talked about the "Unknown Jayhawk!" Someone different stepped up every game... not a miracle, but great coaching and superior play when it counts. (the type of thing we hope doesn't happen with any 6 seeds this year.)

Tim Bingaman 11 years, 3 months ago

As my wife and children do not frequent I can admit freely that this was the greatest night of my life. (this is very cathartic)

Campus was absolutely crazy... kissing every girl in sight, swinging from trees, public intoxication everywhere, total joy-fueled chaos. Anything went... my buddy did actually get stopped by a cop for dragging the fire hose out of Wescoe... but other than that... Totaly free-for-all!

Greatest night ever!!! Best KU game ever!

Rock Chalk!

Joel Hood 11 years, 3 months ago

Timmy - I was there too & you are right. Campus was nuts. 2008 was great - but 1988 had a different feel about it... much more of a surprise - a true underdog story.
I also remember the CBS graphics used for the "Unknown Jayhawk". I also remember the CBS graphic of a Jayhawk building a brick wall on defense - only CBS could be so cheezy.

Tim Bingaman 11 years, 3 months ago

Joel, yeah it was classic! As I don't live in Larry anymore, I'm not sure why the celebration in '08 erupted on Mass? Maybe there were a lot of people in bars in '88 too. Was Mass was crazy then then and I don't know it. I was lugging a gallon jug of Carlo Rossi wine around campus.
Also, was campus a party in '08 too?

Jim Pendleton 11 years, 3 months ago

One correction from above. The caption on the picture of Danny and Coach Brown indicates that was after the championship game. I remember that picture, and I am certain it was after the Duke game. Coach took starters out at the end, unlike the championship game when they were all on the floor at game's end.

The '88 season was one of the wildest up and down years I can remember for KU basketball. We had some great wins that year, but the regular season as well as the Big 8 Tourney were very so so. Pritchard hurt his knee at the Big 8 Tourney, and we weren't even sure how much he could play, if any, in the NCAA's. Guess that worked out all right.

This team just goes to show that anything is possible for a lot of teams when it comes to post season. We certainly have had teams over the years that on paper looked like they had a better chance to win it all than the '88 team did. I don't want to say we were lucky, because I always have believed you generate your own luck. However, it certainly helps to be hot at the right time, and it also doesn't hurt to have the player of the year on your side also.

Hopefully we are about to start another great post-season run. Rock Chalk!!

Funhawk 11 years, 3 months ago

The thing about Danny Manning, he made all the other players on that team look like superstars.

Joel Hood 11 years, 3 months ago

Timmy - no real campus party in 2008. There was a parade of cars going thru it, but the party was downtown. There are so many more Mass St bars and other venues downtown now, compared to 1988, that the party just gravitated there.

In 2008 we watched the game (with the kids) in AFH on the video board. Although I don't have the memory of KUPD making me dump my beer out in front of the Jayhawk Bookstore (1988) I do have great memories of being at the Fieldhouse during the 2008 game with the family and friends.

trueblue68 11 years, 3 months ago


the reason no one called Oscar Robertson's teammates Miracles, is because Oscar never was on a National Championship team while he played at Cinncinatti from 1958 thru 1960. He played in 2 Final Fours in 1959 & 1960 getting beat by the Cal Bears in the Semis both times.

Cinncinatti won 2 straight NCAA championships in 1961 & 1962, but Oscar had already graduated & was playing in the NBA during 1961-62.

hawk316 11 years, 3 months ago

Ahhhh, that first half. It was a wonder. Simply breathtaking. I was in awe that we were able to go toe-to-toe with the very talented and athletic Sooners. We might have lost the game if we had tried to play at that pace during the second half. But, as we know, the Jayhawks slowed it down a bit, played more control basketball and pulled off a truly incredible win. I know that the 2008 championship game over Memphis rightfully deserves to be #1, but I'm thinking that the '88 game probably could claim a tie for the top spot.

Steve Gantz 11 years, 3 months ago

88 was my senior year. Total icing on the cake! Disappointing article, should have been "where are they now". No real mention of the game or how they even got there. A few pertinent points to that season. 50ish home court streak snapped by KState, then followed by two more losses in a row (I think) meaning we had a 3 game home losing streak. HOWEVER, we avenged the 3 home losses by beating the same 3 teams in the last 3 games of the tourney. 2nd round near 'upset' by Murray St. They missed a shot near the buzzer that would have knocked us out. Upsets paved the way for KU. As I recall Pitt and Purdue were seeded 1-2 or 1-3 and we got to play the team that upset them.
The "state championship" to get to the final 4. What a unique day, can't even think of a time it's happened in any state. (probably has) Greatest half of bball in NCAA history, 50-50. Billy Tubbs totally wearing out his team by not subbing. (He only played one sub the whole night) OU was gassed by the end. Stepping outside of my apartment about a mile from campus and it sounded like a 3rd world coup had occurred in some banana republic. Just crazy!

For those talking about the 86 team, we would have gotten Louisville for a 3rd time that season. We beat them the 1st two times, just as Duke beat us twice. That year was my best year of watching KU because that team was amazing.

Chad Hallack 11 years, 3 months ago

I quit paying attention to this list after they put a totally meaningless blow-out against KY on it.

OmaHawk88 11 years, 3 months ago

1988 was my senior year too. What great memories these posts have brought back. I remember that smug smile Tubbs had with just over 2 minutes left and a 6 point lead, only to have it wiped away at the final buzzer. Jayhawk Boulevard was one huge party after the title game.

Chuck, that was a great line by Marvin Mattox, but I think the best was from Clint Normore. It was the next day when we all gathered at the football stadium to greet the champions' return home. Clint (recruited to KU for football when they were really struggling) stepped to the podium and said, "when I came to KU, I never dreamed I'd be a national champion!" That drew laughs and tremendous applause.

Mike Kendall 11 years, 3 months ago

Ahhh, Danny and the Miracles!!!!! I remember the game quite vividly.

It was the April before I was married. My future wife & I had to fly back from Houston, after consulting with our minister on that Championship Monday. We had consulted with our minister for our planned wedding in October 1988. Our plane just arrived in Oklahoma City when the second half began. I remember we were the only ones in the terminal rooting for our beloved Jayhawks! We watched the entire 2nd half on the small screen at the airport (I believe the airport is named after Will Rogers). No big deal that we had to drive another two hours to Wichita. I had my favorite KU shirt on at the time and we were amongst a lot of Sooner fans. I have a VCR copy of the Championship game. I have watched it over and over. I probably will watch the first half again, when I find time before this year's tourney. It was a great night. I couldn't stand Billy Tubbs and to see how much he was outcoached by Larry Brown, well, that was priceless! BTW, I did see Danny Manning play as a Senior at Lawrence High School, VS Wyandotte High School, a game they ended up losing. I could tell then, he was someone special. Great memories and I will always cherish that VCR copy of "Danny and the Miracles."

Rock Chalk forever!

manhattanhawkfan 11 years, 3 months ago

I "remember" that my dad was worried that watching this game was going to cause her to go into labor. it didn't, but i went to the parade barely a week old.

kcglowboy 11 years, 3 months ago

Code-2008, you put your finger on a major problem without realizing it. Two of the three greatest KU games ever played have not been listed yet on this top 10 ... yet there's only one spot left for two games. In other words, this list is a TOTAL FARCE. They call it the 10 greatest KU games of all time, but as we're about to find out, it should have been called the 10 greatest VICTORIES of all time. How in the holy heck could you make a top 10 list of greatest KU games ever and omit the 1957 three-OT championship game? Seriously, JW staff, what in the world were you smoking when you made that decision? Jeesh. Maybe you'll save face by having a two-way tie for the No. 1 spot ... the 2008 championship game and the 57 game. Somehow though, I doubt that you'll be that creative.

John Myers 11 years, 3 months ago

"It’s a bit ironic that Manning and Piper can still be found at KU men’s basketball games — Manning as an assistant coach and Piper as the analyst on the Jayhawk Network radio broadcasts."

Huh? What's ironic about that?

jaybate 11 years, 3 months ago


Could you post a link that names the players on the two UCinn teams that won NCs. I would like to know.

Joel Hood 11 years, 3 months ago

The 1957 NC game is not listed because this series of articles focuses on the winning games that are a part of the 2000 wins. The 1957 game was a loss. The context isn't overly clear, so I can understand why some of you are confused.

trueblue68 11 years, 3 months ago


See below links for the 1961 & 1962 National Championship Cincinatti Bearcats Rosters

1961 Cinn. Bearcats---

1962 Cinn. Bearcats----

yates33333 11 years, 3 months ago

I'm getting too damn old to post here. I thought I remember going to the Cincinnati games at the old Kansas City area off of 12th street and seeing Robertson win. I guess not!!!

Yes the game was played in 1986 but it was the 85-86 season, so, unfortunately, I think of it as the 1985 team, just as I think of this year's team as the 2009 team. Undoubtedly the wrong way to think.

A miracle is "an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs." Webster's Collegiate, 9th edition. I am not sure God was watching, although probably since he is no doubt a KU fan.

Steve Brown 11 years, 3 months ago

this thread is likely dead, yet I came back looking for something about the 1,000 and 1,500 win, and didn't find it yet enjoyed reading this stuff..

Yes, the '86 team and I fall into trap of calling it the 85 team for some reason was very special only because Contucky got upset and miss the DFW final four did I get to go as the guy in Lexington did NOT want any louisville fan to get his seats. a special team.

Danny in Kemper cost me $200 scalper tix and I was really broke young adult back then... wow what a game.

this year's book isn't written yet... fun to watch it unfold...

wissox after the KState loss in AFH I turned to my pal and said "he77 we won't get a NIT invite.. we're cooked for this year.... " true we avoided Pitt and Purdue and then had KState and OU for 2 of last three... it would be amazing to get the tape of that Duke final four game where we raced out of the block ... like we did to UNC couple years ago...

I agree this photo of Brown and Danny was not the last night, as we all have all those photos emblazzened in our memories..

Jeff Cuttell 11 years, 3 months ago

Great Game! Some people had questions about other wins. You can see them by clicking on the link on the front page of at the top that says click to see KUs victories and then you see a list of all of the top 10 games along with games like the 100th win, 1,000th win ect.

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