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A reunion of former teammates: How Danny Manning’s path led him to Maryland

Maryland men’s basketball officially announced on Monday it hired Danny Manning, head coach Mark Turgeon’s former teammate at Kansas.

Tulsa v Maryland

In April 2020, after a basketball career spanning over 35 years, Danny Manning was fired from his head coaching position at Wake Forest. The program had just two winning seasons in ten years, six of which Manning was there for, so the Demon Deacons parted ways with the former NBA All-Star.

As all that unraveled, Manning’s former teammate, Maryland men’s basketball head coach Mark Turgeon called his longtime friend.

“I was like, ‘Why don’t you do this? Why don’t you do that,’” Turgeon said about advice he offered to Manning on that phone call.

“And he said, ‘Turge, I want to coach still.’ and I was like, ‘Man!’ I hung up and I told my wife ‘he’s crazy, get out of this stuff,” Turgeon recalled with a smile.

So, when the timing was right, Turgeon reached out to Manning to offer him an assistant coaching position at Maryland. After a week or so of discussion, Manning accepted the job and the program announced Monday that it had officially hired him as an assistant coach. Manning fills the spot left open by DeAndre Haynes who left the program for an assistant coaching job at Marquette.

“I felt a really good connection and vibe there an opportunity to come to an area that I’m comfortable in, the DMV,” Manning said. “I’m excited to get out and continue to build relationships and open new doors for different possibilities in terms of just relationship building.”

The former Wake Forest head coach has no shortage of experience when it comes to men’s basketball. Manning started as a forward at the University of Kansas where he played with Turgeon from 1984-1987.

The duo met when Turgeon was about 18 and Manning was 17, now about 37 years later, the two are reunited in the Xfinity Center to coach the Terps together.

“We trust each other. We have this little thing inside of us that we know what the other guy’s thinking and it’s just innate for me and him and we’ve been apart for a long time but I already feel it,” Turgeon said.

While wearing a Jayhawks jersey, Manning collected accolades that were capped off by Kansas retiring his No. 25 jersey following his collegiate career. In 1987 and 1988, Manning was a first-team all-American and it was during the ’98, he led Kansas NCAA Championship while Turgeon was in his first year removed from college as a member of head coach Larry Brown’s staff.

It was that season Manning received the Wooden Award, Naismith Player of the Year and NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player.

His 2,951 career points are the most ever scored by a Jayhawk and rank 12th in the NCAA record books.

Manning’s stellar performance with the Jayhawks resulted in the Los Angeles Clippers selecting him first overall in the 1988 NBA Draft. In his 15 years in the professional league, Manning continued to shine as a two-time NBA All-Star in 1993 and 1994 and finished with 12,367 points.

Following his NBA retirement in 2003, Manning wanted to get into coaching.

“I have a lot of energy, I have a lot of passion and I’ve been very fortunate, very blessed. And, I just feel like I’m at a point where I still have a lot to give to this game,” Manning said. “And I want to help our young people continue to grow on and off the court. That’s extremely important to me to help develop a total overall person.”

He spent nine seasons from 2003 to 2012 back at Kansas: three were spent as a manager and six as an assistant head coach. In 2008, he helped coach the team to their first National Championship title since he led the Jayhawks there in 1988.

Manning then made the transition to head coach at Tulsa where he worked from 20212-2014. In his second season with the Golden Hurricanes, Manning earned the title of Conference USA Coach of the Year and led Tulsa to the Conference USA Tournament title. That same season, Tulsa had made its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2003.

After two years with the Golden Hurricanes, Manning moved East to Wake Forest where he served as the head coach from 2014-2020.

Turgeon admires that following his NBA career, Manning did not just jump right in as a head coach, rather he worked his way up the ladder.

“I watched him do everything the right way, when he got into coaching,” Turgeon said. “He didn’t skip six levels just to become a head coach. He worked his way up from the lowest part in college coaching to becoming a head coach at Tulsa and becoming a head coach at Wake Forest.”

In his six seasons with the Demon Deacons, Wake Forest did not finish above .500 resulting in his departure from the program.

While at Wake Forest, Manning recruited point guard Bryant Crawford from Gonzaga College High School. Crawford played for three years with the Deacons before entering his name in the NBA Draft.

“Danny’s really recruited this area hard for quite some time and is very well connected in this area, feels very comfortable recruiting in this area...Danny knows the area well,” Turgeon said.

The former NBA all-star has amassed a 116-140 (.413) record as a head coach. However, Manning’s breadth of experience will be an asset to this Maryland team when it comes to both recruiting and practicing.

Given all his success as a forward, much of his expertise will come into play while working with those players on the team. But, it’s not just the big men who Turgeon thinks will benefit from Manning’s coaching.

“Danny’s not just a big man coach, he’s a great basketball coach so he’ll work with the guards and big guys,” Turgeon said. “But everybody’s just gonna assume because he’s big, he’s just a great big man coach, which he is.”

Under Manning’s leadership, 21 players have advanced to play professionally including power forward John Collins who is on the Atlanta Hawks roster with former Terps Bruno Fernando and Kevin Huerter— both of whom played under Turgeon.

Turgeon has coached 10 NBA players while they were in college and most recently, forward Jalen Smith was drafted 10th overall in the 2020 draft, the highest selection of one of Turgeon’s players since 2013 when Alex Len was drafted fifth overall.

This offseason, three players on the Maryland roster, sophomore guards Eric Ayala and Aaron Wiggins along with senior guard Darryl Morsell, have entered their names into the NBA Draft.

“I think my NBA career plays a very big part in the sense of that I’ve been very fortunate and very blessed to play in the NBA for 15 years,” Manning said. “And, you know, that’s part of a lot of aspirations and goals that a lot of the young people we’re recruiting and coaching—they want to get to that level. And for me being able to share my experience with them gives me an avenue that I think is fairly unique.”