Monday, February 18, 2013

Danny’s new digs: Manning brings ‘new brand of hoops’ to Tulsa

Former Kansas University All-American Danny Manning talks to his Tulsa team during a timeout in a game played during in his first year as head coach of the Golden Hurricane in 2013.

Former Kansas University All-American Danny Manning talks to his Tulsa team during a timeout in a game played during in his first year as head coach of the Golden Hurricane in 2013.



Photo Courtesy of Tulsa Media Relations

Former Kansas University All-American Danny Manning talks to his Tulsa team during a timeout in a game played during in his first year as head coach of the Golden Hurricane in 2013.

— When Danny Manning agreed to become the head basketball coach at the University of Tulsa, he knew he was adding his name to an elite list of coaches.

What he didn’t know was that TU’s past success would be so in his face.

In the back halls of Tulsa’s Reynolds Center, two flights of stairs below Manning’s corner office on the top floor, sits a room about three times the size of the lane. When the 6-foot-10 former No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick and 15-year pro first walked in, he saw something unexpected. Stationed prominently above the half dozen lockers about 12 feet up the wall were photographs the size of pizza boxes of three of the best-known coaches in Tulsa history: Bill Self, Tubby Smith and Nolan Richardson.

All three men hold a special place in the often overlooked history and tradition of the 4,000-student Conference-USA school, and all three of those photos since have been moved to another part of the facility at Manning’s request.

“I was like, ‘We’re getting these out,’” Manning recalled with a laugh. “‘We’re gonna put these somewhere else. We’re not gonna look at these cats that won a national championship every day.’”

“A new brand of hoops,” is the slogan the university uses to promote the Manning era, and in the days since KU’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder was hired last April, interest, excitement and, frankly, hope have been on the rise with a fan base that still celebrates the program’s 2000 trip to the Elite Eight under Self and often asks, “So, when are we going back,” even though the Golden Hurricane has not made the NCAA Tournament in 10 years.

There’s also a giant photo of Self’s Elite Eight squad plastered on the wall near the basketball offices. Just about every day, Manning walks past it and sees his former boss’ giant, much younger face staring back at him.

“It’s there. It’s not going anywhere, and I would not be where I am at today without the relationship that I have with him,” Manning said of Self. “So I enjoy seeing that mural. I enjoy that we think enough of the impact he had on our program with that team to put them on the wall. And we aspire to get there as well.”

Kansas model

Reaching that point is a work in progress, but has a lot to do with Self. Tulsa assistant Brett Ballard, a former KU walk-on who worked with Manning under Self and also was the head coach at Baker University for two years, said much of what the first-year Tulsa staff does on a day-to-day basis resembles what Self does at Kansas. That model includes everything from practice plans and preseason boot camp to recruiting tricks and motivational tools.


Danny Manning’s former boss — Kansas coach Bill Self — is in the front row, second from left in this photo not far from the Tulsa basketball office.

But it’s not as if Manning and company — former KU guard Steve Woodberry is an assistant, former KU manager Justin Bauman is TU’s director of basketball operations, and Ted Juneau, Manning’s high school coach, is a Tulsa administrator — are trying to turn Tulsa into Kansas South. Folks around town are quick to point out that former KU assistant coach Steve Robinson tried that from 1996-97. And it didn’t work.

“He doesn’t try to compare us to Kansas or make us like Kansas,” junior Patrick Swilling Jr., said. “He’s trying to build his own brand, his own name here at Tulsa.”

Manning is not Self, nor Larry Brown, nor any of the half dozen former NBA coaches for whom he played. He’s all of them.

“I’ve been very fortunate to be around some great coaches,” Manning said. “And it’s a little bit of this, a little bit of that. All of those things have made a contribution to how I think in this position.”

Manning’s players paint a picture of a coach who’s fun to be around and takes input well. The way he runs practice backs up both claims. At one mid-February practice, after running through the regular routine of shooting and defensive drills, Manning allowed the competitor in him to rise to the surface. In a series of blue-versus-black, one-possession scrimmages, he and Ballard matched wits and did so in stealth mode, whispering instructions to their squads. After three successful possessions by Manning’s black squad, the first-year coach unleashed in a booming voice, “Hey, Blue, I’m just making up stuff out here, and we’re scoring on you.”

On the next possession, Ballard’s blue team forced a turnover that led to an easy bucket on the other end.

“Good, good, good,” Manning said.

“He’s intense,” said Scottie Haralson, a senior who played for UConn coach Jim Calhoun as a freshman before transferring to Tulsa. “You can tell that it’s not his first rodeo. He’s learned from the best, and it’s like he’s been doing it forever.”

Added Swilling Jr.: “We know that coming in to practice every day is not gonna be easy.”

Time manager

In practices and games, Manning is equal parts smiles and barks. He appears to have fun being around the guys and also relishes the opportunity to teach the game he loves, often bouncing from serious to playful during the same drill. When he’s wearing the whistle around his neck, Manning is direct, organized and often a step or two ahead of what’s in front of him.

“We talk to our kids all the time about time management being one of the biggest adjustments you have to make in college,” Manning said. “And as a head coach that’s probably been one of my biggest adjustments, too.”


Former Kansas University great Danny Manning finds the head coach’s chair at Tulsa U. fits just fine.

When word got out that Manning was moving into the head coach’s chair, many wondered whether the humble giant in both name and stature would be willing to step out of his shell and become the face of a program. Manning laughs at the thought while also indicating he understands where it came from.

“A lot of the things I did as a professional player I’m back out doing again,” he said. “Whenever you take on a new job or a new role, if someone says, ‘This is part of the gig,’ then you do it.”

Manning has done more than oblige. In addition to starring in weekly radio and television shows, he also has become a fixture in the Tulsa community. Manning’s team and family get involved in some sort of give-back activity each week. He has been known to unload bags from the team bus by himself, and he routinely strolls across campus to visit with the other coaches or take in other TU athletic events.

“I think he’s handled it great,” Ballard said. “He has stepped into the spotlight more because he understands that’s what he needs to do here. It’s a big-time deal, and the tradition and support are terrific, but at the same time he can blend in a little.”

Added Bauman: “I think it’s been an adjustment for Tulsa, quite honestly. It’s been awhile since they had someone in that position where they don’t have to go out and promote the head coach. The head coach kind of promotes himself.”

Manning is aware that his time as a head coach, at Tulsa or elsewhere, will be measured by wins and losses. He says he’s proud of the work he and his staff have done in Year One but also admits that his team has fallen short of its biggest goal on several nights.

“Expectations don’t change,” Manning said, acknowledging the motto he borrowed from Self. “The goal is still to go out and be successful and win. And that’s the mind-set that we have.”

After watching last season’s top two scorers transfer out before hearing his pitch and losing his top returning big man because of a preseason health scare, Manning went to work with the players who stayed and brought in seven newcomers — five freshmen and two transfers — to fortify the roster. Some are playing out of position, many have played hurt, and a few simply aren’t talented enough to help Tulsa win at the level Manning believes is possible.

“The majority of the time, we’ve not had a problem with our guys trying,” Manning said. “They try. And they play hard. And that’s what you want.”

‘Remarkable’ job

With just a few games left in the regular season and the Golden Hurricane hovering above .500 (14-11 overall, 6-5 in conference), many at Tulsa have been pleasantly surprised by what Manning has done this season and for the future. Manning has landed three targets in the Class of 2013 — two are big men — and is still trying to snag one more. Season-ticket sales are up by a little more than 300 from last season and the 8,300-seat Reynolds Center is starting to fill up the way it did when Self opened the building in 1998.

There are reasons for that. Some have to do with the effort put forth by the team or the way Manning has marketed Tulsa basketball. Others are tied to Manning’s past.

“I see guys wearing KU hats and KU sweatshirts coming to the games,” said senior associate athletic director Don Tomkalski, who has been at Tulsa since the 1980s. “The job he’s done, with what he’s had, is remarkable.”


The Tulsa basketball program’s goals under coach Danny Manning are spelled out for all to see.

While much of the first season has been about laying foundations, it also has been about X’s and O’s. That part’s in good hands, according to Tomkalski.

In a road game at SMU in January, Tulsa led former KU and Manning coach Larry Brown by 17, let the lead slip away and then executed a near-perfect inbounds play late to win.

A couple of weeks earlier, despite trailing by 17 at rival ORU, Manning tweaked things in the second half and TU won by four.

And in early February, while playing at UTEP without their leading scorer and facing a fourth straight loss, the Golden Hurricane held off a tough Miners team to get back on track.

“You can see it,” Tomkalski said. “He knows how to coach. You see the team growing up all the time, and that’s coaching.”

Manning said he never realized he had the desire to become a head coach until he got older. The thought would flutter in and out, he said, but it never drove him, and he never spent a minute looking past the task at hand while serving as an assistant coach. Now that his time has arrived, Manning can’t help but feel like his path as a player and coach led him to Tulsa.

“I don’t think things turn out the way you want ’em to. They turn out the way they’re supposed to,” he said, mentioning that he encounters evidence of Jayhawk fans in Tulsa almost weekly. “I had a great job as an assistant coach at Kansas. It’s a great gig. To me, it was not something that you leave unless you find something that really fits you. And this fit.”


pavillion1234 1 year, 2 months ago

I'm trying to figure out how "it didn't work" for Steve Robinson from 96-97. He went 46-18, to a pair of NCAA tournaments and even won a tournament game. He was the WAC coach of the year one of those seasons, and garnered a promotion to Florida State out of the gig. If Manning did all that, wouldn't his stay be considered a resounding success?


sbucks 1 year, 2 months ago

Mannings going to be a great coach, wish we still had him.


wrwlumpy 1 year, 2 months ago

I watched the Houston/TU game last week until with a few minutes left to go in the game with TU ahead and the FoxMidwest Network switched to another game.

Watching Danny coach you can see an influence from Self. He is always standing and coaching when the team is on defense, no matter if it is the first play of the game.

Funny to find out that Tulsa tried to be KU south earlier in history.


Tony Bandle 1 year, 2 months ago

Let's Grade the Big 12 Coaches.

1] Bill Self, Kansas. - A++, It's obvious.

2] Bruce Weber, Kansas State - He gets an A- with the previous coach's players, D- with his own players.

3] Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State - B+ And will get better the more he coaches....dammit!!

4] Travis Ford, Oklahoma State - A-, He gets a high grade for not letting his crappy coaching get in the way of his players excelling.

5] Scott Drew, Baylor - D-, He gets a low grade for letting his crappy coaching get in the way of his players excelling.

6] Rich Barnes, Texas - F+, He better circle the wagons if next year is like this year.

7] Lon Kruger, Oklahaoma - C++, A past Kansas nemisis, Lon will re-establish that role as a coach.

8] Bob Huggins, West Virginia - C-, Huggy Bear having an off year.

9] Chris Walker, Texas Tech - Incomplete, I'll let him finish his season before he gets his F

10] Trent Johnson, TCU - D-, How can you flunk someone who beat Kansas, although he admitted Kansas did a lot more to beat Kansas than TCU did!!


jaybate 1 year, 2 months ago

Danny Manning will win 20 next year and 25 the year after, then 30. At that point he will get his shot at a major. Brett Ballard will get his shot to take over at Tulsa. Brett will keep it rolling and Brett will be at a major.

What major Danny goes to determines whether he ever comes back to KU as head coach. If he goes to an Illinois, and Self retires in five, then Danny would probably come back. But Danny is old enough that unless all goes perfectly he will be too old for KU to take a chance on. And if Danny were to get hired by one of the blue bloods after turning Tulsa around, he probably would not come back regardless.

But Brett Ballard is very likely to come back as KU's head coach some day.

Brett Ballard won instantly at Baker.

Brett Ballard is a top assistant to Manning at a still young age.

Brett Ballard is on track to become a great coach.

KU is lucky to have two great future prospects from the Self Coaching Tree--one mid term and one long term.


rrwisecup 1 year, 2 months ago

Good luck to you Danny, wish we had you back. Wouldn't count on DM being the new defacto coach if BS goe's, there's a guy out there called Mark Turgeon who's pretty good.


hawkmoon2020 1 year, 2 months ago

Man, watching that "Miracles" trailer brought back memories. It also got me thinking that it seems 90% of our shots are either within 7 ft or beyond 20. Not a lot of 8-15 footers that the Miracles made. I know we like to go hi-lo, and work it inside, but is it just me? Kinda like when we point out KY having open 12-15 footers, and not hitting them efficiently. Can this team hit the 7-20 ft range shots? Can't EJ, NT, TR or BMac hit those pull-up jump shots from 8-12 ft . . . efficiently?


Ralster Jayhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

Regarding SelfBall playstyle: It works. Self took a no-MickeyD Tulsa squad to the Elite8 and a 32-5 record. It begins with defense, which can be taught. It teaches ball movement and ball reversal in order to find "high%looks", which enhance your offense. This is why it is a better brand of ball than RoyBall, because it CAN be run by lesser athletes...and on an off-shooting night, your D (usually) can keep you in the game. For example, the TCU loss was mainly due to very poor D by KU in the 2nd half: we score 42 pts in the 2nd half, yet "allow" TCU to score 40pts in a half against the #1FG%defense in the nation (that didnt show up in the 2nd half). Very basic tenet of SelfBall showing up as a major factor in a loss, by simply being absent in the comeback attempt. Of course, by recruiting top 50athletes, Self has taken his concepts to the next level...getting "athletes" to play complete ball...and has become the winningest coach in D1 the last 6yrs more validation needed, especially when the post-08Champ reload years still post 30+ win seasons.


Tony Bandle 1 year, 2 months ago

Bill wins another NC and leaves say in 5 or 6 years...Danny's the Man. Bill wins a couple of NCs and retires in 10 or 11 years...the Brad Stevens from Butler is the Man.!!


Sally Presson 1 year, 2 months ago

Yes, we all miss Danny, but wish him success, he's a great man and a great coach!!! He did wonderful things at Kansas and will do wonderful things at TU. Danny will always be a Jayhawk!!


William Blake 1 year, 2 months ago

Nice work, Matt!

There is one stat I'd like to know.... how many coaches today had their paths run through Lawrence? Anyone know?

It would be great to see a list... even better if the list showed current and past.

Wow... haven't heard Nolan Richardson's name spoken in a while. I'm guessing he isn't running for mayor down in Wichita. Few know he won both an NIT championship (Tulsa) and a D1 National Championship (Arkansas beating Duke). I guess he's retired and living in Tulsa. I wonder if he shows up at Tulsa basketball practice sometimes?


Woody Cragg 1 year, 2 months ago

By far, no Danny is the biggest difference in this years' KU team & past teams. Just imagine how much stronger Perry Ellis would be in the paint with Manning's ability to tutor footwork & patience. I swear, every time Jeff catches a pass now he puts in on the floor-worst thing a big can do. I wish him best of luck, but maybe when Bill goes on to greener pastures, Danny will follow the trail back home. I think it was the KSU game last week we noticed him, the wife, & daughter in the crowd at AFH. Tremendous player, great coach, & even better person.


tis4tim 1 year, 2 months ago

Good for Danny and good for Tulsa.

It's got to be tough for schools like this. I mean, we sit here wishing and hoping that players like Ben McLemore stay for four years. At schools like Tulsa, fans wish and hope that the coach stays for four years. The bad ones won't last and, should you happen to find a star on the rise, like Self or Tubby or Richardson they are gone to bigger programs sometimes before their first recruiting class graduates. It has to be difficult trying to build a program for long-term success when the critical pieces are there only for the short-term. I hope Danny can bring Tulsa some lasting success in the years to come. Sadly, for the Hurricanes, the quicker the rise to prominence, the quicker Danny, too, will be coaching at another school and the cycle starts all over again.

It's good to be a Jayhawk.


Cameron Cederlind 1 year, 2 months ago

I think the reason it didn't work in 1996-97 was trying to bring Roy's type of play to Tulsa, unless you've got some high recruits coming in it's gonna be tough to build a program around that. Nothing wrong with implementing the current KU model.


notjustbread 1 year, 2 months ago

You still got to believe that it is a huge recruiting advantage for TU to have the Danny Manning in your living room.


Setherick 1 year, 2 months ago

I love HC Manning, so it's nice to see this article celebrating him here. I can't help but wonder how good his team would be this year if Kodi Maduka had not had to step away from the game. It's too bad what happened to the young man, but he made the right decision.


monkeehawkSL8 1 year, 2 months ago

Love the uni's with the Beak yellow border. Danny deciding to come back cause he wasn't ready for the NBA, No matter who was shown shooting there was always a 2nd Jayhawk flying at the rim for a put back. Ahh Jayhawk TEAM basketball, that was refreshing. Thanks for the link and post. Danny wasn't ready, and I think of all the young men since then who thought they were and.......


SingaporeJayhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

One of the greatest players in NCAA history. His compliment of great teammates and remarkable 1988 season is being featured in a documentary releasing next month just prior to the 25th anniversary: 'The Miracles: College Basketball's Last Cinderella Champion' @KU88documentary


Scott MacWilliams 1 year, 2 months ago

Nice article, Matt!

Looks like Danny and the Hurricanes might be the next big thing, or is that on old doo-wop group??

For true, I think Tulsa scored the perfect coach for their situation, and I'm hoping that we see the Hurricanes moving up the rankings every year, maybe a Sweet 16 team in a few years? I wouldn't bet against Coach Manning and his crew of mostly Jayhawk assistants. They will have those guys headed in the right direction, an upward trajectory. Yet another branch of the ever-expanding Kansas coaching tree!!

Rock Chalk, Danny Hawk!!


MinnesotaJay 1 year, 2 months ago

Wishing Danny, and Brett, too, all the success in the world.


supermario15 1 year, 2 months ago

fair o say the heir apparent to Self when he retires?


Jack Jones 1 year, 2 months ago

Matt> As usual a terrific story about a great young man and my guess would be, a successful Head Coach to-be at Tulsa University. It is both remarkable, and one more significant piece of the second-to-none tradition of the University of Kansas basketball program when we consider the list of our Head Coaches > and the number of successful Assistant Coaches and former players who are now Head Coaches and Assistant Coaches at the college level > and now the NBA level as well. It truly is a privilege to be a part of that tradition as a member of the Jayhawk family.


Thomas Michaud 1 year, 2 months ago

Great article, Matt!!

While I was really sad to see Danny leave, I'm very happy for the opportunity he has in Tulsa. Here's another KU fan hoping for Tulsa's continued improvement and a return to the NCAA tournament ... Just hope we never have to face 'em!

Love the photo of Self's team at Tulsa ... I take it that's Norm Roberts sitting next to him? Wow, 1999-2000 ... Amazing how time files.


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