clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Manning Up At Wake

Wake Forest took a certain gamble in hiring Danny Manning, but it could work out brilliantly. Or not.

One in, one out: Juan Dixon prepares to leave the ACC while Danny Manning signs on
One in, one out: Juan Dixon prepares to leave the ACC while Danny Manning signs on
Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

So what to make of the Manning hire at Wake Forest? Like a lot of people, maybe, we're of two minds.

If you shop Amazon, please start here and help DBR
Available now!

Although you can't predict the future, at least at this point, it's not like the Deacs went out and got a Sure Thing. That said, Manning has one particular and established talent - he's a heck of a big man coach. You can expect Wake's frontcourt to improve.

That still leaves guard play, defense and recruiting, among other things. And it doesn't address how he will deal with the fan base.

As several people have noted, and as anyone who watched him play could tell, he's a fairly quiet person. We'll be interested to see how he soothes the alienated fans - and how they react to the hire.

On the bright side, no one seems set to transfer.

The sharpest commentary we've seen is from Ed Hardin of the Greensboro paper.

Hardin criticizes Manning for how he got involved and mentions that the Tulsa paper reported (we missed this) that one of his negotiating points was to relax admissions.

Hardin touches on Skip Prosser, Dino Gaudio and Jeff Bzdelik, pointing out that one of the reasons Gaudio was canned was because of the "recruiting adventures" of Prosser and Gaudio.

You can reasonably take this to mean that the two coaches corrupted the basketball program. Criticizing Prosser has been really rare since his death. This is the first we can recall.

Bzdelik, according to this argument, was brought in to clean up the program.

State went through a similar period after Jim Valvano was forced out, and Les Robinson's mildly talented teams were tolerated while the program was scrubbed and academics were reintroduced.

Wake's situation is not nearly as bad but Bzdelik is a comparable transitional figure.

So it'll be interesting to see if Manning won concessions there.

We expect he'll be able to sell himself as part of Wake's post Bzdelik rebranding so recruiting, at least initially, should go well. And with at least two key players joining the team next year in Greg McClinton, a 6-6 forward who sat out this year with an injury, and highly regarded point guard Shelton Mitchell, assuming he doesn't back out.

There are plenty of reasons Manning could backfire and Hardin's point about Wake's tolerance of "the dirty realities" of college basketball is important.

But so is this: Danny Manning can certainly trade on his fame and accomplishments. But he spent four years learning from Larry Brown, who has one of the great basketball minds, and nine years working with Bill Self, who is no slouch himself. And Kansas is as good a place as any to learn how college basketball works in our time.

And aside from his exposure to Brown and Self, Manning was a rare talent. At 6-10, or 6-11, depending on who you believe, he had a tremendous grasp of the game. His triumph with Kansas in 1988 was spectacular. That was a very thin team talentwise - one of Brown's complaints about KU was that it was very hard to recruit there, a problem that Roy Williams, somehow, never seemed to have.

Manning pretty much did everything. He was the main inside presence, he handled the point at times, he directed traffic on the court. He was a very, very unusual player before he started to blow his knees out.

What's worth remembering is that a very young age he demonstrated a brilliant grasp of the game.

That's not enough, of course. But it's a hell of an advantage. It's really going to be fun to see what he can accomplish.