Dallas Tulsa’s Danny Manning seemed to enjoy facing mentor Larry Brown of SMU in just the second sideline match-up of an NCAA-winning coach and the Final Four’s most outstanding player. The ending was even better for him.
Pat Swilling Jr. hit a three-pointer with 3.8 seconds left to give the Golden Hurricane a 48-47 victory Sunday night, just three months shy of the 25th anniversary of Kansas’ 1988 championship with Brown on the bench and Manning as the star on the court.
What started out as something of a Kansas reunion — and a Tulsa blowout — actually turned into a game, and Brown’s feeling of dread long before tipoff got worse when his team rallied from 34-17 down at halftime to take a 46-42 lead in the final minute, only to give it away with a missed free throw and some missed defensive assignments.
“I didn’t like the idea of playing against him,” Brown said. “Once the game went on, I wasn’t thinking about Danny. I think we were thinking about our team and how we could win the game.”
The coach and his former player shared a brief pregame chat, a brief hug a few minutes before the game, and another brief one after the chaotic ending — moments after Brown was waving his arms on the bench, trying to get his players to move up the floor for a final shot. He mouthed “No” as a desperation shot from half-court didn’t come close, reached his hands out as he got out of his chair and put his hands on his head.
“Then you look at the way the game ended, it’s a terrible feeling,” Brown said. “I’m happy for Danny.”
The former player is now 2-0 in these rare coaching match-ups, and both of them were one-point games. In 1950, Howie Dallmar and Penn beat Everett Dean-led Stanford 59-58. That was eight years after the Cardinal won the title with Dean on the bench and Dallmar on the court.
Brown and his players had something to lose, but the half-dozen or so former Jayhawks in attendance didn’t. They greeted Brown warmly outside the locker room after the game, which they watched from seats not far from the SMU bench.
“It’s good to come to a game like this and be a fan of both coaches, kind of ask all the guys, ‘Who you pulling for?’” said Milt Newton, a starter on the 1988 Kansas team and now an executive with the Washington Wizards. “I think we’re all pulling for Danny because he’s the underdog in a sense. At the end of the day, we can’t lose because if coach wins, that’s our coach, and if Danny wins, that’s our teammate.”
Manning still has some of that soft-spoken superstar in him. A referee didn’t hear him as he frantically called for a timeout after a three-pointer by Scottie Haralson pulled Tulsa within 46-45 with 24 seconds left. SMU’s Nick Russell missed one of two free throws, giving Tulsa the opening for the win on the three-pointer by Swilling Jr., the son of former NFL linebacker Pat Swilling, in the Conference USA opener for both teams.
Manning’s sideline demeanor didn’t change much even though he watched his team squander the 17-point halftime lead by scoring just six points in the first 15 minutes of the second half, when Tulsa (9-6) shot 23 percent.
“Coach Manning, he’s his usual self — calm, cool and collected, getting fiery sometimes,” Swilling Jr. said.
Newton said he expected something from different from Brown in the second half, and he was right. Brown said the Mustangs (10-6) played probably their best defense of the year in the second half. But Manning didn’t give his players any special warning at halftime.
“You don’t want your team to get comfortable,” he said. “You know the coach in the other locker room, regardless of if it’s coach Brown or Tubby Smith or Bill Self, they’re all over their guys. We knew that’s what was going on. We have to do a better job of answering that call when that bell is rung.”
Manning saw his former teammates at the hotel the day before the game but kept his pregame routine mostly the same. The postgame routine wasn’t going to be much different either. The Hurricane play Wednesday night at Marshall.
“We got to get on the bus,” Manning said. “I’ll see those guys briefly, hug them, tell them thank you for coming, talk to you later.”
As for Manning and Brown, nothing’s changed there.
“We always stay in touch,” Manning said. “I wish him the best. I know he wishes me the best up until we meet again. Then we’ve got to go through all of this again.”