Cats familiar with Manning in NCAA role

By Joel Jellison

DAYTON, Ohio — When Danny Manning led Kansas on a magic run to the 1988 NCAA Championship, Kansas State was on the wrong side of history.

Manning led the sixth-seeded Jayhawks to a 71-58 win over the No. 4 seed Wildcats in the Elite Eight, ending the Wildcats’ hope at a national title run.

Manning was the story of the tournament as the Jayhawks defeated Oklahoma to claim the title.

Now, 29 years later, Manning is coaching Wake Forest in the NCAA tournament and facing the Wildcats once again.

K-State coach Bruce Weber missed his chance to experience “Danny and the Miracles,” that year, serving as an assistant coach to the No. 1-seeded Purdue team that lost to K-State in the Sweet 16.

Weber’s team thought it would have a date with Manning when it was set for a rematch with a K-State team it beat in the regular season.

“We had beaten Kansas State by 25 or something earlier in the year,” he said. “The got us and we never got a chance to play Danny and Kansas. Great player and just a great individual.”

Although Weber didn’t get to coach against the player then, he’s gotten to know Manning as a coach.

Weber said Manning is a good guy to have in the profession.

“I think his character is one of the number one things I’ve got to know about him,” Weber said. “(He’s) a quality person. When you have success as a player, some of those guys, they don’t have the patience to be a coach. They don’t have the commitment. Obviously he does. I think he’s great for the game.”

Earlier this week K-State players admitted they knew more about this year’s Wake Forest team than they do about Danny Manning the player. Senior Wesley Iwundu even remarked, “I think he was a Jayhawk.”

Manning has his own memories of paying against K-State, and most of it has to do with experiencing the atmosphere inside Ahearn Field House before the Wildcats moved into Bramlage Coliseum.

“(As a) wide-eyed freshman I ran out there on the court and saw some live chickens come out there with us, which was a very unique experience for me at that time,” Manning said. “But I looked around at my teammates, and they were all looking to see what the reaction of all our freshmen was going to be when they saw that, and they were all cracking up laughing. So I figured we were going to be okay after I looked around at a few guys and they were laughing at us.”

Manning finished his NBA career in 2003 and became a team manager with Kansas. In 2006 he became an assistant coach for Bill Self and stayed in that position until becoming the head coach at Tulsa in 2012. He’s been at Wake Forest since 2014.

Weber said Manning’s team reminds him a little of Kansas and Iowa State in the way they run their offense.

“They do some of the stuff,” Weber said. “Danny was with Bill for a while and I think he’s taken a few of the things that fit his players and uses them.”

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