Danny Manning grew up watching Wake Forest play games at the Greensboro Coliseum, memories that linger in his mind all these years later.
He never thought one day he’d coach the Demon Deacons.
Manning, the former Kansas star who spent the past two seasons coaching Tulsa, was hired Friday as Wake Forest’s basketball coach. He’ll be introduced at a news conference next week on campus in Winston-Salem, N.C., a short drive from where Manning grew up.
“I spent a lot of my formative childhood years in North Carolina,” Manning told The Associated Press on Friday at AT&T Stadium, the site of this weekend’s Final Four.
“I spent the majority of my life in Kansas,” Manning said, “but this was a chance to be a part of a university that I share the same values and history with.”
His hiring ends Wake Forest’s two-week search for a replacement for Jeff Bzdelik, who resigned under intense public pressure following four mostly unremarkable seasons.
Manning, who was 38-29 with two postseason berths in two seasons at Tulsa, interviewed this week and toured the campus in Winston-Salem on Wednesday before taking the job two days later.
His hiring is considered somewhat risky because of his lack of head coaching experience, but there’s no question he brings instant name recognition to a program that dropped to near the bottom of the expanded Atlantic Coast Conference.
“There have been very few players who have had as much success on the court as Danny,” Wake Forest athletic director Ron Wellman said in a statement. “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 attended Greensboro Page High School before his family moved to Lawrence, Kan., for his senior year, and when it was time to choose a college, he picked Kansas over North Carolina.
After his “Danny and the Miracles” team won the national title in Kansas City, not far from the Jayhawks’ campus, Manning was drafted first overall by the Los Angeles Clippers in 1988.
He made two All-Star teams during a career marred by injuries before joining coach Bill Self’s staff at Kansas in 2003. Responsible primarily for working with post players, Manning was promoted to assistant coach in 2006 and two years ago earned his first head coaching job at Tulsa.
Self called Manning “one of the most accomplished, humble people you’ll ever meet.”
The 47-year-old Manning took the Golden Hurricane to the CBI in his first year and followed that by guiding them to the Conference USA tournament title and their first NCAA tournament berth since 2003. They earned a No. 13 seed and lost to UCLA in their tournament opener.
Tulsa forward Rashad Smith said he found out about Manning’s move through teammates and media reports, though he said the coach texted him shortly thereafter.
Guard James Woodard said it was “kind of shocking.
“You know in the back of your mind, the run we had this year, there would be a lot of opportunities out there,” Woodard said. “I’m happy for him.”
Wake Forest never came close to making the NCAA tournament under Bzdelik, who stepped down March 20. Bzdelik went 51-76 with a 17-51 record in ACC play, and won only two league road games.
Eight players transferred out during his tenure, and the Demon Deacons have been one of the youngest programs in the country — with only one fourth-year senior in each of the past two years.
Barring any more transfers, Manning will inherit a team with eight players who are either juniors or redshirt juniors — including promising big man Devin Thomas and tempo-setting guard Codi Miller-McIntyre.
As details of Manning’s hiring trickled across Twitter, Miller-McIntyre tweeted: “Finally it’s over! Time to get back to work.”
Manning called the Demon Deacons a “sleeping giant,” one that he believes will be able to contend with Tobacco Road rivals Duke and North Carolina in the near future.
“A few years back, they were ranked No. 1 in the country,” Manning told AP. “They’ve had great players. You’re about Chris Paul, Tim Duncan, just to name a few, because they’ve had quite a few.
“I’m looking forward to going there and being part of that great tradition.”
AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta in Arlington, Texas, and AP freelancer Lynn Jacobsen in Tulsa, Okla., contributed to this report.
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