Published March 29, 2012
NEW ORLEANS – Danny Manning's last game as a player at Kansas ended with a national title. He hopes his last game as an assistant coach for the Jayhawks does, too.
Manning has agreed to become the head coach of Tulsa, joining Barry Hinson as the second assistant from coach Bill Self's staff to announce their departure during the week of the Final Four. Both coaches will assume their new duties after Kansas is done in New Orleans.
The Jayhawks play Ohio State in the national semifinals Saturday night.
"Right now my focus is on Kansas and its participation in the Final Four," Manning said in a statement released by Tulsa on Thursday. "We've worked extremely hard to get to this point, and we want to keep it going for another few days."
Tulsa officials are planning an introductory news conference next week, and the notoriously media shy Manning managed to slip away from practice Thursday unnoticed.
His move comes after Hinson, the Jayhawks' director of basketball operations, accepted the job at Southern Illinois. He was introduced Wednesday before rejoining Kansas in New Orleans.
"We've been fortunate. We had two guys get jobs yesterday, and I don't know how much that happens," Self said Thursday afternoon at the Superdome. "The big thing for me is when I told those respective schools, I said, 'I'm fine, but let's do it now. I don't want the rumors and to have to lie and say you haven't taken a job. Hey, let's get it out of the way now.'"
Manning takes over for Doug Wojcik, who was fired by Tulsa on March 11 after four 20-win seasons and three postseason appearances, though none in the NCAA tournament. Tulsa hasn't made the field since 2003, the second of back-to-back trips to the second round.
The Golden Hurricane is even further removed from the heights it reached under Self, who was coach from 1997-2000 and led the program to a 32-5 record and regional final in 1998.
Still, Manning's new program appears on solid footing.
The Golden Hurricane have had six straight winning seasons, four with at least 20 wins, including back-to-back 25-win campaigns that included trips to the CBI and NIT. Tulsa went 17-14 this past season, losing in triple-overtime to Marshall in the Conference USA tournament.
Tulsa returns four of its five leading scorers next season, including dynamic guard Jordan Clarkson, who averaged better than 16 points during his sophomore year.
"The most important thing is we can't distract from the bigger picture. That's what a great job Kansas has done this year," Tulsa athletic director Ross Parmley told The Associated Press in a phone interview Thursday. "They're playing for an awful lot down in New Orleans this weekend, so as soon as that comes to an end, whenever that is, we'll get him in front of our team."
Few players are so closely connected to a school as Manning to Kansas.
The program's all-time leading scorer and rebounder, Manning remains ninth on the NCAA's career scoring list with 2,951 points. He was a consensus All-American in 1987 and '88, and led the Jayhawks — the team coined "Danny and the Miracles" — to the 1988 NCAA championship.
Manning became the top pick in the 1988 draft and averaged 14 points over 15 seasons with seven NBA franchises. He returned to Kansas upon his retirement, and became one of the most visible assistants at a program that once had John Calipari sitting on its bench.
"He deserves it," Kansas center Jeff Withey said. "He's been a great teacher and mentor to me. He's helped my game out tremendously with post moves and just the knowledge of playing out on the block. He's definitely going to be missed, but I'm so happy for him."
Manning has earned a reputation as a solid recruiter and one of the nation's elite coaches of big men. Under his tutelage, Thomas Robinson went from backup forward to first-team All-American and Withey from the bench to one of the Big 12's top defenders.
Manning also has worked with future NBA players Wayne Simien, Julian Wright, Darrell Arthur, Darnell Jackson, Cole Aldrich, Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris.
"I'm excited for D, for getting that job. Him and Coach Hinson are more than deserving of getting a head coaching job," Robinson said. "He's meant almost everything to my game."
Parmley said it wasn't just Manning's work with the big men that captured his attention, but his overall knowledge of the game — and all the basketball minds that he's been around, from Larry Brown as a player at Kansas to his coaches in the NBA and Self in recent years.
Tulsa's athletic director believes that mixture of experience will allow Manning to take a program that has had plenty of success to another level.
"I don't think the young kids today will remember who Danny is or know who Danny is, but at the end of the day, those experiences definitely matter," Parmley said. "All that plays a factor to build a person who, in my belief, is now ready to be a head basketball coach."
AP Sports Writer Jeff Latzke in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.