Getting his respect

Hall of Fame to induct Manning today in K.C.

Kansas assistant coach Danny Manning clips his share of the net following the Jayhawks’ National Championship victory over Memphis on April 7 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. Manning will be inducted into the National College Basketball Hall of Fame tonight at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Danny Manning and Larry Brown embrace after clinching the 1988 Men’s NCAA Basketball title.

Larry Brown, who witnessed the greatness of Danny Manning first-hand, watched with interest as ESPN last March embarked on a countdown of the 25 best college basketball players of all time.

“When it got to No. 7, I said, ‘Wow, this is going to be great,”’ exclaimed Brown, Manning’s coach at Kansas University from 1984 to ’88 — a four-year span that included two Final Fours and the ’88 NCAA title.

“When he wasn’t one of the 25, I couldn’t believe it. I was crushed. He is as good a college player as I’ve ever seen. I can’t imagine a college player ever being better than Danny or accomplishing more than he did,” Brown added.

Charlotte Bobcats coach Brown will be in much better spirits today than he was eight months ago when ESPN delivered an inexplicable slight to the ’88 college basketball player of the year — the leading scorer and rebounder in KU hoops history.

Manning — No. 8 on the NCAA’s all-time scoring charts — will be inducted into the National College Basketball Hall of Fame in a ceremony to start at 8 p.m. at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

“Danny was the ultimate team guy,” Naismith Hall of Famer Brown said of the two-time first-team All American and Olympian. “His dad, Ed, taught Danny early-on how to respect the game and play the game the right way.

“For a guy his size, in a lot of ways he played like a guard,” Brown added of the 6-foot-11 Manning, the top overall pick in the ’88 NBA Draft.

“Everybody used to compare Danny to Magic (Johnson) which is probably the highest compliment you could have. When they were doing those comparisons, they were talking about how he made players better, doing all the little things.”

Manning took greater pleasure in setting up his teammates for baskets than scoring himself.

“I remember Danny told me one time before practice, ‘Watch this, I won’t make one basket today,”’ said current KU head coach Bill Self. He was referring to a pre-practice conversation during the 1985-86 season when Self worked as a grad assistant on Brown’s KU staff.

“He didn’t (make one hoop). All he wanted to do was pass. He was one of those guys who really enjoyed that. From a basketball standpoint, he had zero ego,” Self added. “He was competitive. He didn’t care who got the credit. He deflected all the praise.”

Now 42, the soft-spoken Manning remains ego-free. He remains uncomfortable talking about himself, leaving others to heap praise on him.

“Danny is a good recruiter,” Self said of his sixth-year assistant coach and good friend. “In large part, his name sells itself, but he’ll never mention it. That’s what makes him cool.

“We do a good job of selling him. He does a bad job of selling himself to be honest,” Self added. “He won’t talk about himself, which is good. It’s attractive.

“I mean, who wouldn’t want their son to be mentored by a guy who has everything you want your son to be? Think about it: he graduated, won a national championship, was No. 1 pick in the draft, an Olympian, two-time NBA all-star, family man, has his priorities straight. Who wouldn’t want their son mentored by a guy like that on a daily basis?”

Manning is not ancient by any means, but too old for most high school recruits to recognize by name.

“I didn’t know who he was, but my uncle did,” KU freshman forward Markieff Morris of Philadelphia said of the recruiting process. “I never watched him play until I got here.

“He teaches me so much stuff. Little tricks of the trade he could do when he played — jump hooks and post moves. He’s a great role model, too,” Morris added.

Manning — whose 15-year pro career was hampered by several knee surgeries — actually still can play the game.

“He steps in once in a while at practice. (It’s) a little ego busting,” sophomore center Cole Aldrich said. “He definitely shows you how to play ball, little things here or there throughout practice. If I turn the ball over, he’ll get on me on the sideline. He’ll say, ‘Instead of doing this, do that.’ It’s really useful to have him on the sidelines.”

Manning simply loves his role as KU assistant coach where he spends a lot of time working with the big men.

“You have to develop the relationship with the person you work with to where he trusts you. And once you develop that trust, you are able to do whatever you can to help them become the best they can be,” said Manning, who indicated he won’t start thinking about possibly becoming a head coach until after his youngest child graduates high school in two years.

Tonight is not about his coaching. It’s all about his playing days. He’ll be recognized in the Class of 2008 with players Charles Barkley and Arnie Ferrin, coaches Jim Phelan and Nolan Richardson and broadcasters Billy Packer and Dick Vitale.

Of the group, he’s closest with Barkley.

“Charles is definitely a personality. I enjoyed playing with him in Phoenix (mid 1990s), having spent some time together. I enjoy listening to him and watching him on television to this day,” Manning said.

“It’s going to be a great to go in with someone I had a chance to know for such a long time. It’ll be a lot of fun.”

Fun and one other thing.

“Humbling,” Manning said. “I had the wonderful fortune of playing at the University of Kansas for a great coach, a wonderful coaching staff and some very unselfish teammates that put me in a position to receive a lot of attention. Without all their help, I would not be here today, and I would not have had the career I had in college.”