Gonzaga grad assistant Evan Manning eager for reunion with alma mater
When No. 6 Kansas and top-ranked Gonzaga face off this week in the Fort Myers Tip-Off, the Zags will be getting a little help from someone who’s experienced the KU program firsthand — first-year graduate assistant Evan Manning.
A former KU walk-on and the son of Kansas legend Danny Manning, Evan Manning is now on Gonzaga coach Mark Few’s staff and is helping prepare the Zags to face Bill Self’s KU squad at 12:30 p.m. Thursday on FOX.
As much as Evan Manning is enjoying the task of trying to help Gonzaga crack the Kansas code, he told the Journal-World on Monday that he was looking forward to seeing some familiar faces from his time at KU.
He’s also eager to get an up-close look at the way Self’s attack has changed since he left town.
“It definitely feels a little different,” Evan Manning told the Journal-World on Monday afternoon. “I’ve watched so many KU games the past four years as a fan, and now, watching them from a scouting standpoint, I just gain so much respect for coach Self and the staff because of how well the team is coached and how prepared they are.”
It’s been four full seasons since Evan Manning was on the Kansas roster. And Self has changed his attack plenty during that time.
After leaving Lawrence, Evan Manning worked for three seasons as the director of player development on his father’s staff at Wake Forest.
But when Danny Manning was fired by Wake Forest this summer, Evan Manning quickly landed the opportunity at Gonzaga, where he is studying Few’s coaching style and also working toward a graduate degree in organizational leadership.
Naturally, the younger Manning, 27, said he has visions of following in his dad’s footsteps as a head coach at some point in his life, as well.
“One day, long down the road, that would be awesome,” he said. “I’m not rushing the process, though. I just want to keep learning about the game.”
His short stint with Gonzaga has been valuable because it has opened his eyes to how one of the nation’s most well-known coaches runs his program.
“It’s been great,” he said. “I’m loving the staff and learning so much.”
Regardless of which side wins — his current team or the one he played for — Evan Manning said he was looking forward to being part of a big-time game to help open the 2020-21 college basketball season.
“I’m excited to see everyone,” he said. “But once it’s tipped, it’ll be down to business. It will be good to see our guys on the court again in such crazy times. A little sense of normalcy.”
Evan Manning is not the only person on Gonzaga’s staff who’s played under Self before. Gonzaga assistant Roger Powell Jr. also is getting a chance to see his old coach. He played for Self at Illinois during the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons.
Powell is in his second season with the Zags. He worked for three years as an assistant at Vanderbilt prior to heading west to Spokane, Wash.