DANNY MANNING (2000-01)
The decision to sign Manning proved to be a smart choice by O'Connor. Manning played a full 82 games for the first time in nine seasons and provided valuable scoring off the bench.
During the 2000 Rocky Mountain Revue at Salt Lake Community College, Jazz fans were getting their first glimpse of draft pick DeShawn Stevenson, who had just graduated high school. But in the stands, another future Jazzman also caught the attention of the crowd. Danny Manning, in town to meet with senior vice president of basketball operations, Kevin O'Connor, watched as Stevenson and second-round pick Kaniel Dickens got their first taste of the NBA.
Manning had just completed a season with the Milwaukee Bucks averaging 4.6 points per game and 2.9 rebounds. The Jazz, always on the lookout for veteran role players to surround John Stockton and Karl Malone, signed the veteran forward despite doubts from around the league that Manning's time in the NBA had passed.
Manning, whose father Ed had had played with Jerry Sloan in Chicago, was intrigued with the opportunity to play for a coach he was familiar with.
"I had known Coach Sloan for quite some time," said Manning. "He has a reputation as someone who's stern and strict, but he's fair. You know exactly where he's coming from and he has no hidden agenda. That's something that you can always respect and it makes it easier to go to work when you know what's expected of you."
The decision to sign Manning proved to be a smart choice by O'Connor. Manning played a full 82 games for the first time in nine seasons and provided valuable scoring off the bench. The forward averaged 7.4 points per game and 2.6 rebounds as the Jazz qualified for the 2001 NBA Playoffs, where they faced a young and talented Dallas Mavericks team.
Manning picked up his game in the series – averaging 10.6 points – but it was not enough. Despite holding a 2-0 series lead, the Jazz dropped the next three games, including Game 5 at home. The loss marked the first time Utah had exited the playoffs in the opening round in six seasons.
The Mavericks moved on to face the San Antonio Spurs who quickly disposed of the inexperienced team. Looking to add veteran leadership to their youthful roster in the offseason, Dallas didn't have to look far for an addition. The Mavs picked up Manning, who had only signed a one-year deal with the Jazz. Manning played the 2001-02 season with Dallas before spending his final NBA campaign with the Detroit Pistons in '02-03.
Upon retirement, Manning didn't have to look far to find a place for his family to settle down. The Lawrence, Kan., native returned to his hometown, the same place he had spent summers during his 15-year NBA career.
"[Lawrence] has always been home," said Manning. "Every year I played in the league we would always come back to Lawrence. It's a nice, comfortable fit for us. We enjoy being here and our kids like it."
The move also presented Manning with the opportunity to work with his alma mater – the University of Kansas. In four years with the Jayhawks, Manning scored 2,951 points and picked up 1,187 rebounds. He was named a First-Team All-America selection in 1987 and 1988 and the College Player of the Year in 1988. That same year, Manning led Kansas to the 1988 NCAA National Championship. The Jayhawks were known as "Danny and the Miracles," and Manning was named the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player Award.
When Bill Self accepted the head coaching position at the school the same year Manning retired, the two begin talking about Manning retuning to the place of his storied college career.
"I wanted to get involved (at Kansas) but I didn't know if it would be possible," said Manning. "It worked out that (our family) got here and Coach Self had an opening on his staff, and we talked about it and I thought it would be a good fit."
Manning served as the director of student-athlete development/team manager with the men's basketball team from 2003 to 2007. The position also allowed the former Jazzman to work as a counselor and mentor to student-athletes.
In March 2007 he was named assistant coach for the Jayhawks, a position that he still holds today.
"I really enjoy working for Coach Self, he was a graduate assistant here when I was in school, so I've know him for a long time," said Manning. "I feel very comfortable with him and his style of play and I believe it's a way you can be successful."
Yet, as much as he enjoys working with the Jayhawks, eventually the former number one pick sees himself returning to the NBA.
"I would love to get on a staff and be an assistant coach and eventually become a head coach," said Manning. "From there (I would like to) move to the front office in a general manager position or something along those lines. I think that's the ultimate challenge at the NBA level is the general manager, the president or the director of player personnel, where you actually put the team together."