reached out and touched an old friend, Cleveland Cavalier Assistant Coach Gene
Littles, who also played for Brown in the ABA and had been Manning's boss at
North Carolina A&T. In the course of conversation on an unrelated
matter—getting two former Kansas players pro basketball tryouts—Littles told
Brown that the right man to be his assistant was Ed Manning.
"I told Gene
I was afraid to approach Ed because it might hurt us in recruiting Danny,"
says Brown, who nevertheless investigated the possibility of Manning's hiring.
But Manning is just shy of his Jackson State degree and therefore was
ineligible. After Brown told this to Kansas Assistant Athletic Director Lonny
Rose, the job description was rewritten to allow Manning to come to
overjoyed at the opportunity to get back into basketball. Triple-bypass heart
surgery last November had made him question the wisdom of staying in the cab of
an 18-wheel van trailer. "You just sit there and bounce," Manning says.
"Drivers have all kinds of health problems."
Was the hiring
ethical? Schools have been punished for offering employment in other roles to
relatives of a recruit, but the NCAA has long accepted the argument that a
qualified coach may be hired even if he has a relationship—family or
otherwise—to a star athlete.
Smith, who gave
Brown his first coaching job, is not crying foul, however. "I'm sure Danny
was somewhere in Larry's mind, too," Smith says, "but he does have a
good loyal coach in Ed Manning." Loyalty, Smith says, is important.
"That's why I hired Larry as an assistant back in 1965."
arrived at Kansas he had to convince people of his own loyalty. He quit the
Denver Nuggets in midseason of 1979 and wound up at UCLA, only to leave after
two years to coach the New Jersey Nets. Then he gave up that job in April for
Kansas. As one writer put it, "Wherever he goes, he wins. Wherever he wins,
duck questions about his wanderings. "With recruits, if they don't ask me,
I mention it myself," he says. He's also likely to show prospects the house
he is having built just off a fairway at Alvamar Country Club, or he'll mention
that his wife, Barbara, is taking courses in business and computer science at
Kansas—two signs of stability. "I'm determined to stay. But I can only
prove it by staying." Brown adds, "This is the first time I've ever
told the kids I'm staying. At UCLA I wanted them to come for the school, for
the program. Here, I'm flattered if they want to come for me."
The most grateful
beneficiary of Brown's hiring seems to be Kansas Football Coach Mike Gottfried,
who spent the weeks after he was hired last December defending his own
much-traveled past—nine jobs in 17 years. "That all ended when Larry
came," Gottfried says with a grin.
When all is said
and done, most Kansas fans care most about the Jayhawks' rediscovering their
winning ways. "We came in seventh and sixth in the conference the last two
years," Brown says. "And now we're being picked in the Top 20 in the
nation? I find that hard to believe. But I'm flattered. When I saw the films of
last year, I was not that encouraged, to be perfectly honest, but after being
around the kids more, seeing how they've grown up, I get more encouraged each
again become watery. Tears of joy? "No, it's definitely hay fever," he
says, shaking his head.