Timeless miracles: Danny Manning-led 1988 title team approaching 25th anniversary

The 1988 NCAA national-champion Jayhawks

The 1988 NCAA national-champion Jayhawks

The nickname for Kansas University’s 1988 NCAA basketball championship team has stood the test of time.

Twenty-five years after the fact — heading into this weekend’s 115 Years of KU Basketball reunion — the mere mention of “Danny and the Miracles” brings to mind a 27-11 team that stuck together after a 12-8 start and embarked on a magical Danny Manning-led, six-game postseason run. It was capped with KU’s 83-79 victory over Oklahoma (35-4) in the title game in Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Mo.

“Danny’s unbelievably humble. He’s the one who complains about the name, ‘Danny and the Miracles,”’ said 1988 title team reserve guard Scooter Barry, a 46-year-old businessman from San Francisco who retired from professional basketball six years ago after a long playing career in Europe and Australia.

“Everybody else says it’s a perfect name. Danny always says, ‘It wasn’t me. It was all of us.’ Everybody knows he and coach (Larry) Brown carried the weight of the team. With their experience and ability to communicate and take over games … it gave us the opportunity to be in position to win.”

For instance, in the title game …

“Larry’s big thing was, just stick with Oklahoma long enough to where we are in the game the last two minutes, then Danny will take care of it, and Oklahoma will be nervous because they don’t get in that situation often. He was right,” Barry said. “We stuck with it until the end. Oklahoma was in an awkward position, and we were able to win.”

Billy Tubbs’ Sooners, who had defeated KU twice during the regular season, played KU to a 50-50 halftime tie. The Jayhawks slowed the pace the second half en route to the title.

Was that ’88 team, which suffered through injuries and player suspensions, a team of destiny?

Mookie Blaylock, left, looks to make a pass against Scooter Barry during the Jayhawks' 83-79 win over the Sooners on April 4, 1988, to secure the school's fourth national championship.

“I think so,” Barry said. “If you look back, it was a situation we were not supposed to win. I think the cards and stars lined up right. Teams were knocked off in front of us, giving us different match-ups.”

KU, the No. 6 seed in the Midwest Regional, defeated No. 11 seed Xavier, No. 14 Murray State, No. 7 Vanderbilt, No. 4 Kansas State and No. 2 Duke before knocking off No. 1 OU. Upsets kept KU from playing the likes of No. 3 N.C. State, No. 2 Pitt and No. 1 Purdue.

“Locations were easy for us in Nebraska and Kansas City,” Barry said of the first- and second-round sites and site of Final Four. “Not that Oklahoma was (full of) bad guys, but its reputation was an arrogant team that liked to blow people out by 50 points. We were 12-8, and people didn’t even know if we were going to make the tournament.

“It was nice to see the good guys don’t finish last every time.”

Manning scored 31 points versus OU in the title game. The other starters were Milt Newton (15 points), Kevin Pritchard (13), Chris Piper (8) and Jeff Gueldner (2). Clint Normore had seven off the bench, Lincoln Minor four, Keith Harris two and Barry one point and two assists in nine minutes.

Barry, who was red-shirted a year, played four years at KU for Larry Brown, one for Roy Williams.

“I played in Spain as a 40-year-old. It was my last year under contract as a player,” Barry said. “I have two children, a 9-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son. With two kids, it was ridiculous to keep playing. I still play for the Olympic Club in San Francisco on a travel team.”

“I told Archie (Marshall, former teammate) and coach Brown and whoever else is in the (Dallas) area, I’ll be back April 18 playing at TCU. We play teams like the New York Athletic Club and LA Athletic Club.

“I just took a job six months ago with a startup software company in the Bay Area, high risk, high reward in trying to make it work,” Barry added. “If it does, I’ll be in a good position. If not, we’ll go down another path. I was with 24 Hour Fitness almost three years coming back after looking at coaching overseas. I decided the gypsy lifestyle for my family wouldn’t be healthy. I thought about coaching in the States. I have a good list of people to ask: Larry, Roy, Turg (Mark Turgeon). Most of those guys told me, ‘If you want to see your kids, don’t coach.’ I made a decision based on their feedback. I’d be lying if I said basketball was not a part of me.”

Barry, like current SMU coach Brown and Tulsa coach Manning, won’t be able to make it back to Lawrence for this weekend’s festivities, which include about 200 former players, coaches and managers being introduced at halftime of Saturday’s 3 p.m. game against TCU. Milt Newton (Washington Wizards front office) and Kevin Pritchard (Indiana Pacers) also haven’t signed up because of their ongoing seasons.

“If I had something I would say to everybody (it’s that) I’m really disappointed I can’t be there,” said Barry, whose new job responsibilities prevent him from attending. “I was at the 20-year reunion and had a great time.

“We ended up winning it all that year, so they should fly us in all the time,” he joked. “Knowing a lot of the team won’t be able to make it there took a lot of pressure off me to where I feel I’m not letting anybody down. I want to try to reconnect with Kansas basketball. Being overseas as long as I was, I wasn’t privy to a lot of opportunities to be with the team. I’m glad Bill (Self) is keeping the tradition together and bringing back the former players. It’s a super opportunity for guys who played there to feel appreciated for what you did for your school. I’d love to thank Kansas as a school for giving me all these opportunities and memories.”

Greene honored
: Kansas University basketball signee Brannen Greene has been named Mr. Georgia Basketball as presented by the Atlanta Tipoff Club. Greene, a 6-7 forward from Tift County HIgh in Tifton, Ga, is averaging 29 points a game.