SMU's Brown, Tulsa's Manning in rare matchup
Now that he's back in the college game, Larry Brown is looking for the next Danny Manning. Meantime, he's not very excited about coaching against the real thing.
When Manning and Tulsa visit SMU on Sunday night, it will be just the second time the most outstanding player from an NCAA championship team opposes his coach on the sideline.
Thinking back to the moment when Kansas won that title in 1988, Brown can hardly bear the notion of trying to beat maybe his favorite player in a 40-year career.
''It's going to be a special moment seeing him on the other bench coaching,'' Brown said. ''But I don't enjoy that opportunity because if we lose, I don't take losses very well and if we win, I'm not going to be happy about him being on the losing side. I admire the heck out of him.''
The 72-year-old Brown, a Naismith Hall of Famer who is the only coach to win NBA and NCAA titles, is coaching in college for the first time since the Kansas championship, and says he will ''go to high school games and look for kids just like'' Manning.
Their bond is pretty rare because Brown also coached Manning's dad, and Manning passed up a chance to be the first pick in the NBA draft in part because he wanted to win a national championship. He ended up doing it, and turns out he was just delaying the inevitable because the Los Angeles Clippers made him the top pick in 1988. Manning and Brown were later paired again for two years with the Clippers.
Manning, the eighth-leading scorer in NCAA history, says he remembers all those days fondly. Brown thinks maybe there's some revisionist history in play.
''I think he thought I was a jerk when I was a college coach and maybe I took it up a notch as a pro coach,'' Brown said. ''He thought it was like groundhog day and maybe wasn't too excited about it.''
It couldn't have been that bad. Manning called his old coach into his office last spring because he wanted to know what Brown thought about his decision to pursue a head coaching job after nine years on the staff at Kansas. Plus, Brown spent a lot of time around the KU program, especially in the 16 months between getting fired by the Charlotte Bobcats and hired at SMU.
''He had a huge impact on my life on and off the court,'' Manning said. ''A lot of the things he taught us when we were in school are still things that hold true today for me just in terms of you always want your team to go out and play hard together, be unselfish with their thoughts and their actions.''
Brown has seen Manning around basketball almost as long as he's been a head coach, going back to when Ed Manning's young son would show up at practice for the Carolina Cougars of the ABA in the early 1970s. For years, Brown figured Manning would be a coach. He just thought it would be in the NBA, where Manning had a 15-year playing career.
''I know when he was winding down at the end of his career, every coach that had him told me he mentored the young players,'' Brown said. ''It was like having another coach on the bench.''
From a practical standpoint, both first-year coaches are trying to win their Conference USA opener and go where they went together in 1988. Brown has a little more building to do.
SMU (10-5) hasn't been to the NCAA tournament in 20 years and last won a tournament game the same year Brown and Manning took the title. Tulsa (8-6) went to the regional finals 12 years ago under Manning's former boss at Kansas, Bill Self, but has just two tournament wins since and hasn't been to the NCAAs in 10 years.
''I think it's kind of cool that we're playing each other the first (conference) game,'' said Manning, who was with the Jayhawks when they won the 2006 title. ''Being at new programs and our first conference game ... I'm looking forward to it.''
For the record, the former player won the only other meeting of title-winning coach vs. Final Four standout. It was 1950, when Howie Dallmar and Penn beat Everett Dean-led Stanford 59-58. Eight years earlier, the Cardinal won the title with Dean on the bench and Dallmar on the court.
''There will be a lot of hugs before the game, but once the game starts the competitor in all of us will come out,'' Manning said. ''Once that game is over again, we'll go back to the hugs and love.''