Danny Manning moves to next phase of coaching career with no shortage of options

Kansas assistant coach Danny Manning directs traffic during warmups prior to tipoff against Texas Tech on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Fired from his job as the head basketball coach at Wake Forest on Saturday morning, Danny Manning will move forward in an enviable position.

Set financially and loaded with connections throughout all levels of basketball, Manning has the luxury of being extremely picky about what he does next.

The knee-jerk reaction to the news by Kansas fans was, of course, for Manning to land on his feet back in Lawrence, where he spent nine seasons in various roles on Bill Self’s staff at the outset of his coaching career.

And there’s little doubt that if Manning and his family wanted to return to Lawrence, Self and KU would figure out a place for him in the basketball office.

Adding Manning to the program in any capacity would be a monster move for the Jayhawks. He’s a terrific mentor, knows how to develop talent, can recruit and loves Kansas.

He displayed all of those traits during his nine-year stint in Lawrence, which began in 2003, when he joined Self’s staff as a team manager and director of student-athlete development. And all of them have served him well since leaving Kansas, too.

Manning was promoted to full-time assistant coach for his final six seasons on Self’s staff and has spent the last eight as a head coach in the Division I ranks.

But staying in the college game might not be a no-brainer for Manning.

The former No. 1 overall pick of the Los Angeles Clippers has plenty of ties to the NBA, and I’ve always thought that he had the perfect demeanor to coach at that level.

Clearly, he would have to start out as an assistant, but the turnover at the professional level is ferocious and, if Manning put himself in the right situation, he could someday sit in the head coach’s chair again.

That’s if he wanted to. Some guys like the chance to test themselves as head coaches and are just as happy to return to a supporting role when the ride is over.

There are a lot of professional players — particularly younger ones — who would benefit greatly from Manning’s presence in their lives. And, regardless of how long it’s been since he played, Manning’s NBA resume, on paper alone, would command immediate respect.

Let’s not limit Manning’s options to just KU or the NBA.

Manning also has connections throughout the college game, both with other coaches and administrators, and could find himself on the bench of some other program as soon as next year, either in an assistant coaching role or perhaps as the head coach of some mid-major or even a smaller program looking for a quality coach who does things the right way and cares an awful lot about the game.

Of course, if Manning’s been paying attention to his mentors, he might not feel the need to commit to any one program or opportunity next year. He could bop around the country, checking in at various programs and with old friends.

That scenario would have Manning filling some sort of a consultant role or perhaps keep him close to the game while waiting a year to see what opportunities present themselves for the 2021-22 season.

Or he could simply do nothing and move into pseudo-retirement as a happy, healthy and wealthy 53-year-old legend with some great years ahead of him.

Any or all of those options could be available in the coming months. And it’s hard to see Manning going wrong no matter which direction he chooses to go.


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