Originally published April 4, 2014 at 10:02 a.m., updated April 5, 2014 at 12:22 a.m.
Winston-Salem N.C. Danny Manning grew up watching Wake Forest play games at the Greensboro Coliseum, memories that linger in his mind all these years later.
He never thought one day he’d coach the Demon Deacons.
Manning, the former Kansas University standout who spent the past two seasons coaching Tulsa, was hired Friday as Wake Forest’s basketball coach. He’ll be introduced at a news conference next week on campus in Winston-Salem, N.C., a short drive from where Manning grew up.
“I spent a lot of my formative childhood years in North Carolina,” Manning said Friday at AT&T Stadium, site of the Final Four.
“I spent the majority of my life in Kansas,” Manning said, “but this was a chance to be a part of a university that I share the same values and history with.”
His hiring ends Wake Forest’s two-week search for a replacement for Jeff Bzdelik.
Manning, who was 38-29 with one NCAA Tournament berth at Tulsa, brings instant name recognition to a program that dropped to near the bottom of the expanded Atlantic Coast Conference.
“There have been very few players who have had as much success on the court as Danny,” Wake Forest athletic director Ron Wellman said. “He has played for and worked under a number of legendary coaches and he has been successful in his coaching career. We fully expect that Danny’s coaching career will reflect the excellence of his playing career.”
Manning attended Greensboro Page High School before his family moved to Lawrence for his senior year, and when it was time to choose a college, he picked KU over North Carolina, winning an NCAA title with the Jayhawks in 1988.
Manning joined coach Bill Self’s staff at KU in 2003. Responsible primarily for working with post players, Manning was promoted to assistant coach in 2006 and two years ago earned his first head coaching job at Tulsa.
Self said Manning is “one of the most accomplished, humble people you’ll ever meet.”
Manning’s son, Evan, is a sophomore walk-on at KU.
“At Tulsa, the program had enough success to put him and his staff in a position to get the opportunity to coach the Wake Forest basketball program,” Evan said Friday. “We as a family have always been proud of him and know he will be successful at Wake like he was at Tulsa.”
Manning, 47, took the Golden Hurricane to the CBI in his first year and followed that by guiding them to the Conference USA tournament title and their first NCAA tournament berth since 2003. They earned a No. 13 seed and lost to UCLA in their tournament opener.
Tulsa forward Rashad Smith said he found out about Manning’s move through teammates and media reports, though he said the coach texted him shortly thereafter. It is believed Tulsa tried to keep Manning by offering a compensation figure at or above the $1 million mark, which would have made him the highest-paid coach in program history.
Guard James Woodard said it was “kind of shocking. You know in the back of your mind, the run we had this year, there would be a lot of opportunities out there,” Woodard said. “I’m happy for him.”
Manning will inherit a team with eight players who are either juniors or redshirt juniors — including promising big man Devin Thomas and tempo-setting guard Codi Miller-McIntyre.
Manning called the Demon Deacons a “sleeping giant,” one that he believes will be able to contend with Tobacco Road rivals Duke and North Carolina in the near future.
“A few years back, they were ranked No. 1 in the country,” Manning said. “They’ve had great players. You’re about Chris Paul, Tim Duncan, just to name a few, because they’ve had quite a few.
“I’m looking forward to going there and being part of that great tradition.”
Dooley on list?: The Tulsa World listed possible successors for Manning. They include former KU assistant Joe Dooley, who has completed his first season at Florida Gulf Coast, plus former Kansas State players Steve Henson (Oklahoma) and Brad Underwood (Stephen F. Austin).
Manning vs. KU: KU and Wake Forest are both entered in the 2015 Maui Invitational meaning Manning could coach against his alma mater in his second campaign at Wake.
Oubre scores 22: KU signee Kelly Oubre scored 22 points off 8-of-14 shooting in Findlay Prep’s 64-56 loss to Oak Hill Academy in the semifinals of the high school national tournament on Friday in New York. Oubre, a 6-7 wing, had 19 points in the first half for Findlay Prep (31-5), which is located in Henderson, Nev.