By Blake Schuster
The moment I found out Danny Manning was leaving for Tulsa’s head coaching position on Wednesday evening I was in the middle of creating a foot long at a Subway right on the border between Arkansas and Missouri. I had been out of cell service for the past two hours and when I finally got on Twitter Manning to Tulsa was all but done. The sub was the first thing I would consume all day, and yet midway through my order I lost all desire to eat.
How do you react to something like that? When you’ve known for years that Danny Manning has earned the right to run his own program, but you secretly wish against it happening, what is the right response?
As I sat and forced a Turkey BLT into my stomach, I didn’t so much as think how I felt about the situation, but someone else, Kansas Athletic Director Sheahon Zenger. Only a little more than a year since he’s taken office he’s exhausted all of his energy to find a football coach, and now one of his biggest basketball assets is leaving.
What do you say to that? How can you possibly sit in your office and be happy when you know how much Manning means, not just to the school, but also to the entire Lawrence community?
“You don’t replace Danny Manning as an individual, but as a position,” Zenger said. “Kansas basketball is at such a level that there’ll be quite a line of people to jump in there.”
And it’s absolutely true, how many people wouldn’t line up to be an assistant at a blue blood that has eight consecutive Big 12 titles, overseen by arguably the best coach in college basketball over the last decade?
But as much as Zenger has removed the idea of replacing Manning, how do you react to him walking out the door?
How do you let someone who is your all-time leading scorer and rebounder, someone who has such strong roots in the region, and someone who is as good at developing talent as him, leave seeing you smiling in the rearview mirror?
Before extensive time with Manning, Jeff Withey was almost frightened to touch the ball in a game; in twelve months he became the Big 12 Defensive Player of the year.
“He gave me a lot of confidence,” Withey said. “Everyday we get a lot of shots off with him, we work on my footwork, post moves, and he gives a lot of tricks when were playing.”
How do you react to someone like that taking another job?
Manning means so much the history of Kansas basketball, and more importantly its future. How often do you find an assistant coach that can be the deciding factor in a recruit’s college choice, as Manning was with Perry Ellis and still might be with Tony Parker?
When you look at Kansas since Manning was injected into the coaching ring in 2003, it’s hard not to be impressed with what he’s done with Jayhawk post players. Wayne Simien, Julian Wright Darrell Arthur, Darnell Jackson, Sasha Kahn, Cole Aldrich, and the Morris twins all played under the tutelage of Manning, all were drafted into the NBA — and that’s not including what the future holds for Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey.
How do you react to letting someone who was more than instrumental in nine conference titles, three Final Four’s, and two National Championships — with a possible third on the way — walk out the door?
Do you just bite your tongue because he’s earned the chance to run a program?
“When your team is successful you always hope that your assistants have an opportunity to benefit from your team’s success. “ Bill Self said.
But does that translate to winning on his own? What does he bring to the Tulsa table?
“He understands the game,” Kevin Young said. “The thing that [Tulsa will] get from him is that he wants to win and will teach you how to win. He works with things on how we pivot, and little things that nobody stops to correct you with at this level.”
Kansas can afford to lose a coach, but where do you start to look for anybody else? It might be near impossible to bring in someone with an attitude, focus, and knowledge like number 25 in the Allen Fieldhouse rafters.
So if I’m sitting in Zenger’s chair how do I react to a legend leaving?
I do it with a smile, a firm handshake, and a final message:
Go make Kansas bring you back.