My dad and Danny Manning
Posted April 8
Updated May 2
Danny Manning left the state of North Carolina to play college basketball at Kansas. Thirty-one years later, he returns to the Triad as the head basketball coach at Wake Forest University.
There were many people extremely upset when Manning left Greensboro Page High School after his junior year and transferred to Lawrence High School in Kansas. In the fall of 1983, Danny announced he would play college basketball for Larry Brown and the Jayhawks.
"If I was still living back east I probably would be going to North Carolina," Manning said, "But my home is here in Lawrence now, and I want to be close to my parents."
How did his parents end up in Lawrence? Two days prior to Danny’s announcement, his dad, Ed Manning, was hired to join Brown’s staff at Kansas.
Ed Manning did have a prior connection to Larry Brown. He played for the ABA’s Carolina Cougars when Brown was the head coach. The problem people had was when Ed Manning joined Brown’s staff at Kansas, he left his job as a truck driver. The news created a multi-car pileup on Tobacco Road. Did Larry Brown hire Ed Manning to get the inside track to his son Danny, the 6-foot-10 superstar? It was a blatantly bold move.
North Carolina coach Dean Smith left for a basketball clinic in Spain thinking he had a good shot to land Danny.
"I came back from Europe,” Smith told Sports Illustrated. “[Assistant Coach] Bill Guthridge asked me, 'You'll never guess who Larry hired?’ It was a surprise to me," Smith said of the hiring.
Danny’s coach at Greensboro Page High School Mac Morris was quite suspicious.
“I don't like how it was handled," Morris explained. “Page 10 of the NCAA's ‘A Guide for the College-Bound Student-Athlete’ reads, 'In recruiting a prospective student-athlete, it is not permissible to give, offer or be involved, directly or indirectly in...employment of the relatives of a prospect.’"
My dad had a more heated and non-printable reaction to Danny’s defection and the hiring of Ed to the Kansas staff. He believed something was rotten in the state of Kansas.
So why did my dad care about this?
He was Danny’s physical education teacher and assistant basketball coach at Aycock Junior High in Greensboro. He raved about the lanky, young athlete from the first day he saw him play. He spoke glowingly about how great of a guy Danny was.
Dad took no credit in the advancement of Danny’s game but enjoyed watching one of his students blossom into a 6-foot-10 forward with point guard skills. In 1983, Manning lead Greensboro Page to a 26-0 record and a state title.
Then the best player from the Old North State transferred to the Sunflower State.
My dad went to his grave convinced that Larry Brown lured Danny to Kansas by hiring his dad. He didn’t hold it against Danny or Ed Manning, Dad just hated the circumstances.
I wish my dad was here to see Danny Manning come full circle. Better late than never, Dad. Better late than never.