🎙 The Jayhawker Podcast | Danny Manning
Episode 24: Danny Manning | June 25, 2020
Danny Manning is considered by many to be the greatest Jayhawk of them all. His case for that distinction is very convincing. He was a two-time All-American, a Wooden Award winner, a National Champion, and is the program’s all-time leading scorer. Plus, every part of Manning’s basketball life comes back to Kansas. His family moved to Lawrence when his father was hired as an assistant coach for Larry Brown. He starred as a Jayhawk en route to becoming the No. 1 overall pick in the 1988 NBA Draft. Later, when he decided to transition into coaching, he started at Kansas with the help of Bill Self.
The namesake for KU Basketball’s “Mr. Jayhawk Award” has accomplished just about everything a Kansas hoops star could aspire to, but Manning’s journey hasn’t always been easy.
Before “Danny and The Miracles” won it all in 1988, there was heartbreak in the 1986 Final Four and the following season’s Sweet 16. Even the national title year started with adversity, as the team opened the season 12-8. As a pro, despite being a two-time NBA All-Star, there were the multiple injuries that led to Manning becoming the first player to return from reconstructive surgeries on both knees. And yet, Manning just keeps fighting. He keeps finding success. And Manning has remembered the role that Kansas has played through it all.
This week on The Jayhawker podcast go inside Manning’s journey to a Kansas prep phenom, what it took to become an All-American and National Champion in 1988 and how when it was time to launch his coaching career, Lawrence once again beckoned Manning home.
As the son of a professional basketball player, Manning was born into big hoops dreams from day one. His father Ed played professionally in the ABA, NBA and overseas and took Danny along for the ride providing a very memorable childhood.
“I have memories of sitting on the backstop of the goal when my dad was playing with the Nets of the ABA and feeling Julius Erving dunk the basketball and the goal that I’m sitting on shaking,” recalled Manning.
“My father definitely introduced me to the game and from there I’ve been fortunate and blessed to have a lot of great experiences along the way,” continued Manning. “We had a chance to move to a lot of different places and that was a unique experience for me and my sister growing up.”
One of those places was Greensboro, NC where the elder Manning played for future Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown on the Carolina Cougars of the ABA. That’s where the Manning family connection to Coach Brown first began.
Though Brown was specifically there to coach Danny’s dad, the Cougars’ coach took a special interest in mentoring some of his players’ kids as well.
“He was coaching kids at that age,” remember Manning. “He’s a professional coach but any kid that walked out there on the court — he’s showing you how to hold the ball, how to pass the ball and things of that nature.”
That made an impression on the younger Manning, while his father was certainly making one on Coach Brown. That connection during their time with the Cougars would plant a seed for Brown hiring Ed Manning as an assistant at KU when he arrived in 1983.
The news came mere days before the start of Danny’s senior year at Page High School in Greensboro. The transition for a 17-year-old was a shock at first, but led to the biggest launch pad possible for all of Manning’s basketball pursuits.
“It was traumatic at the time,” described Manning. “But it was a great opportunity for our family. It was difficult leaving days before the start of my senior year in high school… but it’s something that we’re very fortunate that it happened and grateful that it did happen, because it changed our lives for the better.”
Once in Lawrence, Manning got to see the famed KU basketball program up close and learn of its illustrious history. As a high school senior he would thumb through the KU media guide and read about legendary Jayhawk greats and the records they set during their Kansas careers.
“Every day I was there I tried to find out and learn a little bit more about the history and tradition of the program,” said Manning. “I can remember my dad bringing home the media guide and just reading about the names of the different guys that had come down through the years and worn the jersey. Then I’d go into the Fieldhouse and just fall in love with the place.”
Though he studied all the Kansas records that one day he would obliterate – Manning’s scoring record of 2,951 career points is 854 points more than the second player on the list and may never be touched – Manning says he never imagined he’d accomplish such incredible things.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think of anything like that,” admitted Manning. “I just feel very fortunate, but also know I had great coaches and tremendous teammates to help me accomplish that by making me look pretty good.”
Manning made Kansas look amazing. Two Final Fours, a national title and countless records later his place was forever etched in Jayhawk lore. And that was just the beginning for Manning, as he would help bring another title to Kansas in 2008 as an assistant coach. Relive Manning’s climb to unprecedented heights and the launch of his successful coaching career as well on the latest edition of The Jayhawker.