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He's Manning for the future
John Garrity
October 17, 1983
Kansas' Larry Brown hired an old truck driver and got a big bonus
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October 17, 1983

He's Manning For The Future

Kansas' Larry Brown hired an old truck driver and got a big bonus

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Brown then 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 Lawrence.

Manning was 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."

When Brown 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, he leaves."

Brown doesn't 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 day."

Brown's eyes again become watery. Tears of joy? "No, it's definitely hay fever," he says, shaking his head.

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