The new University of Kansas basketball coach looked a little weepy last week. "Hay fever," Larry Brown said, blinking watery eyes, "the worst ever." Brown's allergist thought his patient might be reacting to the family dog, but when you've just moved to farm country from northern New Jersey and when people all around you are saying heddo instead of hello, it's safe to figure you've got hay fever. A thousand miles away, though, in Greensboro, N.C., the locals would no doubt diagnose Brown's ailment as a case of crocodile tears.
Here's why: On Sept. 22 a very tall high school senior, Danny Manning—late of Greensboro—told a press conference in Lawrence, Kans. that he would be taking his considerable basketball talents to the University of Kansas next fall. "If I was still living back East I probably would be going to North Carolina," he admitted, "but my home is here in Lawrence now, and I want to be close to my parents."
That raised howls on Tobacco Road, because two days earlier Kansas had announced the hiring of Danny's father, Ed Manning, who for the past three years had driven a truck for a living, as one of Brown's assistant coaches. Was it a package deal? "No," says Brown, "but I know people won't read it that way."
Not in North Carolina, anyway. Mac Morris, Danny's coach at Greensboro's Page High, has been the most outspoken in charging that the older Manning was "used" to obtain his son's services. "I don't like how it was handled," Morris said last week. "Page 10 of the NCAA's A Guide for the College-Bound Student-Athlete reads, 'In recruiting a prospective student-athlete, it is not permissible to give, offer or be involved, directly or indirectly in...employment of the relatives of a prospect.' "
When Dean Smith, basketball coach at the University of North Carolina, left for a basketball clinic in Spain in September, the word was that Carolina had an inside track on Danny. Says Smith, a Kansas alumnus and Brown's college coach in the early 1960s, "I came back from Europe and [Assistant Coach] Bill Guthridge asked me, 'You'll never guess who Larry hired?' " And he never would have, Smith says. "It was a surprise to me."
The object of all this attention averaged 18.8 points and nine rebounds a game last year. Most scouting services rank him as one of the nation's top prospects. "Danny was the leading scorer," says Morris, "second-leading assist man and leading rebounder on a 26-0 team that won the state title. He's 6'10�", and he has the agility to be a point guard. Danny may be the best high school player this state has ever produced."
Back at Page High, one candidate for sophomore class president is campaigning on the platform of BRING DANNY MANNING BACK TO NORTH CAROLINA. How? By boycotting grocery products containing Kansas wheat until Danny is shipped back to Greensboro. Forget it. Manning will play this season for Lawrence High, where he enrolled on Sept. 2.
Ed Manning, 41, played for nine seasons with six different pro teams, including two seasons under Brown on the ABA Carolina Cougars. Manning then briefly played for and coached a team in Belgium before becoming an assistant coach at North Carolina A&T University during the 1977-78 season. "I never worried about whether he was qualified or not," Brown says. "I hired Doug Moe [now head coach of the NBA Denver Nuggets] when I was with the Cougars, and he didn't have as much experience as Ed has."
Brown is also annoyed by rumors that Kansas gave Manning a $50,000 salary, a house and a car. "He got exactly what my other assistant, Bob Hill, gets," Brown counters. He adds that the affirmative action guidelines under which Manning was hired set his salary range at $27,500 to $30,000. Kansas did pay for the Mannings' move to Lawrence, but, Brown says, "He got just what any other coach would have gotten." That includes the use of an automobile, a 1983 Chevrolet Caprice; but no free housing.
Forgotten in all the controversy is how Manning's job came to be vacant in the first place. The incumbent was former Jayhawk and Boston Celtic star Jo Jo White, who applied for the head coaching job when Ted Owens was fired last April after 19 years at Kansas. Instead, Athletic Director Monte Johnson made a futile pass at Carolina's Smith and then wooed Brown, who was coaching the New Jersey Nets. "I didn't know till July 9 we were going to have an opening," Brown said last week. "That's when Jo Jo was let go." By Aug. 11 the Affirmative Action Office had approved six candidates for Brown to interview—"six really capable guys," he said. "I agonized over the list, but I couldn't decide." Four of the six were relative strangers to Brown, but he knew Alvin Gentry, an assistant at Colorado, and Gerald Govan, who was an ABA teammate of Brown's. "But he has daughters," Brown cracked.