Friday, January 3, 2014

Young KU basketball team learns about ‘The Miracles’

The 1988 NCAA national-champion Jayhawks

The 1988 NCAA national-champion Jayhawks


Kansas University’s basketball players — who according to coach Bill Self, “went really hard,” in the practice gym Thursday morning — were brought back for what figured to be a strenuous two-a-day session a few hours later.

Instead ...

“We surprised them. We gathered our team together and watched the documentary, ‘Miracles,’” Self said of the movie, “The Miracles: The 1988 Kansas Jayhawks,” which chronicles All-American Danny Manning’s leading KU to the 1988 national title.

“If you’ve not watched it, go watch it. It’s great,” Self added, speaking Thursday on his “Hawk Talk” radio show. “The whole team watched it. They were enamored.

“You don’t know how good guys are until you start hearing other people talk about them. These kids weren’t born (at the time of the title) or anything like that. It was cool,” Self added of the viewing.

Manning, currently the head coach at Tulsa University, played in two Final Fours in his four-year KU career.

“Danny has been through some ups and downs, too,” Self said. “We lost the Big Eight championship when Nebraska beat us at Nebraska (83-81) during Danny’s junior year (1986-87).

“Coach (Larry) Brown in a time out said (to Manning), ‘We’re going to throw the ball into you. Don’t get cute. They are going to trap you. Be strong.’

“Danny caught it, went behind his back and they stole the ball. Brian Carr made a shot and they (Jayhawks) ended up losing. We were playing at Nebraska (when Manning was on Self’s staff) and some fan yelled, ‘Danny Manning ... we took the ball from you right here.’ They remembered the exact spot.

“Danny usually gets the last laugh on most people,” Self said.

KU freshman big man Joel Embiid was impressed enough Thursday night to tweet to his 17,058 followers that he’d “just watched ‘Danny and the Miracles.’”

As far as what’s been happening on the court during the first of several practices between semesters, Self said: “Whatever you are going to try to get in, you probably want to get in over the next couple weeks. We’ve put in one or two (new) things. We’ve not put in a lot of stuff. We’ve got more stuff in than what we run.

“We have to remember how we run it when it’s game time. We’ve sprinkled in a couple new things. We have enough stuff in. The big thing is I’d like to get better at what we do.”

The No. 16-ranked Jayhawks (9-3) will meet No. 21 San Diego State (11-1) at 3:30 p.m., Sunday, in Allen Fieldhouse.

The draft: Self was asked on Hawk Talk if he would ever “encourage” freshman sensation Joel Embiid to return for his sophomore season.

“Joel could go anywhere this year from 1 to 5 probably (in the 2014 Draft), I would say,” Self said. “It would be hard for a staff member or myself to say, ‘Hey it’s best for you to come back.’ It’s really probably best for us if he comes back,” the coach added with a laugh.

“Jo is a little different now,” Self quickly added. “He is a young man who is very, very young, not just in basketball experience (starting in the sport at age 15), but in worldly experience. Just coming to the States (from Cameroon) ... he is trying to figure it all out.

“I talked to him the other day. He said, ‘Well, shouldn’t I learn how to drive a car first?’ He can get a nice car, but he probably can get somebody to drive him so he doesn’t have to worry about that (in NBA).”

Self said it’s simply too early to tell whether Embiid will be a one-and-done.

“I’d say everybody on the outside would say he’s probably definitely going to go because everybody who could go that high goes,” Self said. “But the reality of it is, I don’t feel that way at all. I feel he should do what is best for he and his life.

“The thing that is a little bit confusing is everybody comes from a little bit of a different economic background. There are some families you could never risk that (not going). There’s some like Joel who comes from a fairly affluent family. That is the reason why a lot of people leave, for the dollar. That won’t be why Joel leaves. He’ll leave because he’s ready. He has a long way to go to be where he can potentially be so he has the greatest career. I’m a big believer in that.

“He will make a lot of money if he comes out this year; but I would hope he is prepared to have the best career he possibly can, not just go for the check.”

Self said somebody told him this week, “of the last 15 No. 11 picks in the NBA draft, seven of them didn’t get a second contract. Just because you are a lottery pick doesn’t guarantee anything. It guarantees you three to four years, then you’ve got to produce. I think Jo will make a great decision. If it is leaving after this year we’ll certainly support that. He’ll make a great decision, one that is best for his life.”

Orr to be missed: Self has been saddened by the death of former Iowa State coach Johnny Orr: “Johnny was as good a guy as there was and he’ll be missed by many,” said Self, who got to know Orr when Self was an assistant at Oklahoma State.

“We had a clinic in Stillwater and coach Orr spoke at it. I was chauffeur to go get people. There was a flood in Oklahoma which washed out a bridge we had to cross in order to get back to the airport. I had a car ... if you got over 50, the wheel was shaking. There was no power steering.

“I was in charge of getting him back. When the bridge washed out, we had to take a detour. Back then you didn’t have cell phones to figure out where you were going. I went through Kingfisher and other towns to try to get to the airport. I didn’t know where I was going but I knew I was going 90 mph in that thing. I did everything I could to keep it on the road. Coach Orr said, ‘Self, you S.O.B., I better not miss that flight.’ Coach Orr was colorful. He was one of the best cussers. When he did it, it was not offensive. Everybody thought, ‘That’s Johnny.’

“At Iowa State, he’d come out and they’d play ‘Here’s Johnny’ off the Tonight Show (with Johnny Carson). It was like, ‘I’m here now. Everybody can relax.’ He put on a show for the fans. He was one of the greats. He’ll really be missed.”


Suzi Marshall 4 years, 4 months ago

Interesting he showed that about Danny and the Miracles. We, the KUSports posters, had a similar discussion a couple of weeks ago when discussing possible losing 10 games for the year and getting a 6-8 seed, same as '88. We could have a similar final 4 with Kansas, Duke, Arizona and O(S)U.

Self showed this to the team to encourage them to continue to work hard even if we lose a bunch of conference games. If this team can come close to reaching its potential by mid March....nobody will beat us and we get another NC.

Rodney Crain 4 years, 4 months ago

I was in Lawrence in 88, went to the last 3 games, and was outside Kemper but could not come up with the cash for a last second ticket. That was a great win.

I agree with you I think Self knows this team is going to take some hits in conf. play and wants them to keep in mind the bigger picture.

Conf Championship not likely if we lose these tough games early B12 tourn champs - maybe if we are coming on at the end of conf play NCAA - Final four maybe if we get a 4,5,6 seed and are playing our best ball Nat Champs - anything is possible if you are the final four!

Kent Richardson 4 years, 4 months ago

I think we have hope because of how this team has already responded to the losing of games. I can't see where we lack toughness yet. The freshmen are so talented and our bigs are athletic and like to bang if need be. Joel will put up numbers every game. Wiggins scores 20 without even trying it seems and if he figures it out he can carry us as necessary.

Dirk Medema 4 years, 4 months ago

The '88 NC game is still one of the best ever, and the 2 before it weren't bad either. I've watched it so many times over the years. Helps to have them recorded without commercials. Great to pull out during the off-season.

So many injuries. Football players joining the team just to be able to practice, then playing a significant role. Clint's stuff of Harvey like a receiver crossing the middle is one of my favorite plays of all time - even if he got a foul on the play. It's even better than the 3 from the top of the key with 2 seconds left on the shot clock in the middle of the 2nd half. Just cold blooded. So, so many other great plays and moves.

Coach Brown is the master in game coach. Knowing which guy to insert to perform some specific role to impact the game, and a little different each game - Regional Championship against KSU, National Semi's against Duke, and then OU. Billy Tubbs was so ridiculously outclassed.

Titus Canby 4 years, 4 months ago

Great team photo. And what a team that came together through adversity. Like Dagger mentioned, Clint Normore coming over from the football team. Marvin Branch didn't make grades. Otis Livingston, who is now a broadcaster, got kicked off for an unannounced reason. I had completely forgotten that Mark Randall was on the team. And can you imagine winning a National Championship starting Scooter Barry and Jeff "Opie" Gueldner?

Mick Allen 4 years, 4 months ago

Marvin Branch who was a great physical talent worked for John "Wagon Wheel" Wooden and while in his employ either forged some checks, took some money out of the till or both. He was to be the 5 allowing Danny to play the 4 and face up more.The Otis Livingston dismissal reminds me of the old Larry Brown adage "My way or Trailways", which when translated meant do it my way or you'll be on the next bus out of town. LB was a "special coach".

Kent Richardson 4 years, 4 months ago

What I remember about that year was: 1. The early struggles. 2. The later in the year game when we just blew out a good Arkansas team 3. How Danny was so focused and 4. How everyone embraced their role.

Andy Tweedy 4 years, 4 months ago

I'm pretty sure that Arkansas game was the 1991 team, I have zero recollection of playing them in 1987-88. But I do remember beating 40 minutes of Hell a few short years later in the tourney. And I don't really recall struggling early, I recall strugglinge mightily in the middle of Big 8 play. Are we talking about the same year? But it would be hard to argue with the 3rd and 4th points.

Jack Wilson 4 years, 4 months ago

Right, Arkansas was not that season.

But Kent, don't sweat it. The specifics of our fond memories fade a bit. But that doesn't make them any less enjoyable. My fond memory of that season was watching KU beat Notre Dame in Allen Fieldhouse. I had told a number of folks that ... until someone pointed out to me that the win over ND at Allen was in the 1986-87 season. Whatever.

Now, I do remember visiting some buddies at K-State and watching us win a close one over K-State in old Ahearn that season. I've double checked my recollection and confirmed that one.

Andy Tweedy 4 years, 4 months ago

My fondest memory of the ND game was Milt Newton getting called for a charge when the bottom of his crotch caught the top of the dude's head. That kid could jump!!!

Dirk Medema 4 years, 4 months ago

Was it the OU game or Duke where Milt jumped long and covered like half the baseline for a reverse layup?

Dirk Medema 4 years, 4 months ago

Also loved that the Miracles avenged the last 3 losses of the season in the last 3 games of the year, and even better that it is the purple kitties, cookies, and tubbies sooners.

Stuart Johnson 4 years, 4 months ago

I was at that game in in Ahearn, we held Richmond to 11 points and I think Mike Maddux stole the inbound pass at half court to seal the deal. We also held Richmond to 11 points in Detroit to go to the Final Four 71-58 and Scooter Barry was named the unknown Jayhawk in the tourney game. Problem was K-Sate did go to AFH a week or so after the last meeting in Ahearn and ended our 55 home game winning streak. But the season ending well 83-79 over Mookie, King and that goofy tall white boy that hit 7 or 9 3's in first half in Kemper. RCJ!!

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