Wake Forest Hires Danny Manning

Wake Forest will hire Danny Manning as its next head basketball coach, the university confirmed Friday morning.

Manning just finished his second year at Tulsa, where he compiled a 38-29 record. He led the Golden Hurricane to the NCAA Tournament this season as a No. 13 seed after winning the Conference USA Tournament. Prior to his first head coaching job at Tulsa, Manning was an assistant under Bill Self at Kansas from 2003-12.

Reports of interest between Manning and Wake Forest starting heating up early this week. On Wednesday morning, a plane owned by prominent Wake Forest booster Richard Budd was flown to Tulsa to pick up Manning and bring him to Wake Forest’s campus. Manning met with Tulsa officials on Tuesday, where the Tulsa administration offered Manning a salary in excess of $1 million per year with increased assistant coach salaries and more flexibility.

Athletic director Ron Wellman will hire Manning after first targeting a handful of home run candidates. Virginia Commonwealth coach Shaka Smart was the No. 1 target on his radar at the beginning of the search. Wake Forest also had interest in Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall, Dayton’s Archie Miller, Xavier’s Chris Mack and former UCLA coach Ben Howland. It’s unclear how far conversations with any of those targets developed. While the process evokes memories of the search four years earlier, it’s not entirely similar. Jeff Bzdelik was well outside of the top 10 candidates on Wellman’s board. It’s not known exactly where Manning stood early on, but it’s believed he was closer to the upper tier of targets than Bzdelik ever was.

“We are very pleased to welcome Danny Manning to Wake Forest,” Wellman said in a press release. “There have been very few players who have had as much success on the court as Danny. He has played for and worked under a number of legendary coaches and he has been successful in his coaching career. We fully expect that Danny’s coaching career will reflect the excellence of his playing career.”

Manning carries a big reputation with him to Wake Forest. He was a superstar player at Kansas and the first overall pick in the 1988 NBA Draft. He played in the NBA for 15 years before joining the coaching ranks at Kansas.

Manning has experienced success at every step of his basketball career. He led the Jayhawks to the national championship in 1988, winning Final Four Most Outstanding Player honors. He was a consensus All-American for two years and the 1988 national player of the year. In the pros, he was twice an NBA All-Star. As a coach at Kansas, he was on the bench for the Jayhawks’ national championship in 2008. Then, at Tulsa last year, he was named Conference USA Coach of the Year after leading his team to the regular season and tournament championship. Manning is a member of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.

Manning was a key part of Kansas’ extraordinary success in the past decade. He served as director of student-athlete development from 2003-06 while learning the coaching ropes. He was promoted to a full assistant coaching spot in 2006. In that position, he helped recruit and develop some of the nation’s best big men. Among those are Cole Aldrich, the Morris twins, Jeff Withey and Thomas Robinson. He’s known as one of the best forward coaches in the country.

“I am excited about the opportunity to be a part of the history and tradition of Wake Forest,” Manning said in a release. “I am extremely humbled by this honor and look forward to being the head coach and competing for championships both on and off the court.”

Manning is a North Carolina native who grew up in Greensboro before leaving the state to play basketball at Kansas.

The major drawback to Manning is his inexperience. He’s only been a head coach for two seasons, which is far from desirable for a coach at a high major program. He’s known as a good recruiter from his time at Kansas, but he signed three three-star recruits and four unranked recruits in his two classes at Tulsa.

The financial terms of the deal have not yet been released. Manning had three years remaining on his contract at Tulsa, so it’s likely a buyout is involved. It’s unknown how large the buyout is. Manning is 47 years old.

Manning replaces Bzdelik, who resigned from Wake Forest on March 20 after four years at the helm. He’s a stark contrast to Bzdelik. While Manning is a recognizable figure across the country, Bzdelik was an unknown before taking the Wake Forest job, and he was aloof as the Demon Deacons’ coach, as well.

Wake Forest’s coaching search lasted just more than two weeks. Manning inherits a team that went 17-16 and 6-12 in the ACC this season.

While the Demon Deacons lose steady seniors Travis McKie and Coron Williams off this year’s roster, they have a strong core returning that Manning could mold into a winning team. Sophomore forward Devin Thomas has All-ACC talent, and Manning’s track record suggests he can help Thomas fulfill that potential. Forward Tyler Cavanaugh, a rising junior, is another project that should greatly benefit from Manning’s coaching.