John Klein: Manning optimistic about turning around TU program
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Tuesday, May 01, 2012
5/01/12 at 4:10 AM
Related story: Former UMKC assistant coming to TU.
Go to John Klein's Blog Original Print Headline: Manning optimistic about Hurricane's turnaround
There may be limited opportunities for Tulsa to change next year's team but new coach Danny Manning believes there are players to be found.
Manning said "recruiting never stops" and the Golden Hurricane will continue to evaluate players and try to locate players that could help TU next season.
Manning has said that his goal is to return TU basketball back to the NCAA Tournament and hopes it could be as soon as next year.
That may have become more difficult last week when it became apparent that guard Jordan Clarkson, Tulsa's leading scorer last year at 16.5 points per game, will be transferring.
Clarkson's departure will certainly change the way Tulsa looks on the floor next year. TU's offense usually ran through him.
However, Tulsa was likely to look different anyway because of the new system Manning plans to implement.
Yet, Manning is not backing away from his optimism. He believes Tulsa can make a turnaround and he has high hopes that the Golden Hurricane will make a quick transition to a new system.
Tulsa will have at least four new players and with Clarkson's departure perhaps a fifth.
But, the Golden Hurricane will be different next year regardless of how many players return from last year's team.
"Every team is different," said Manning. "I don't care how many players you have back. Every year the teams are never the same. That is the nature of the beast.
"Yes, we're out looking for players to improve our team. But, at the same time, we're doing a lot of things to improve our team. We're always looking to get better and you can do that by working with your players, helping them to make changes and get better."
Tulsa showed some signs of potential a year ago but once again failed to get to the NCAA Tournament.
The Golden Hurricane, 17-14, went into the final week of the regular season with a shot at the C-USA regular-season title.
Instead, Tulsa lost at UAB and then got hammered by Memphis at the Reynolds Center. The Golden Hurricane went into the C-USA Tournament as the third-seed but lost to sixth-seeded Marshall in the opening round.
The loss guaranteed that Tulsa would miss the NCAA Tournament for the seventh time in seven years under Doug Wojcik and for a ninth straight season.
That decline in the program's performance had an economic impact on Tulsa. TU athletic director Ross Parmley said Tulsa basketball has suffered a 35 percent decline in season-ticket sales and 43 percent decline in revenue.
So, Wojcik was pushed out and Manning brought on to repair Tulsa basketball.
Immediately there was an uptick in interest at the box office and Tulsa expects increases in season-ticket sales and revenue next fall.
The Golden Hurricane program does not need a wholesale reconstruction. Tulsa has good facilities, great history and a passionate fan base.
What it needs is better performance on the court.
If most of the potential returning players are still at Tulsa next fall, Manning will have a nice core group of players to work with and improve.
"At this point I'm still just getting around the guys and trying to get to know them better," said Manning. "I have purposely not watched any tape from last year. I don't want any predetermined opinions.
"I will watch some tape in the future to see what these players did and did not do last year. But, right now, I just want to know more about them and see them in some drills and their skill level."
Tulsa had capable players a year ago. It just didn't win significant games.
In fact, that has been Tulsa in recent years. Good players. Just not enough victories to make the Golden Hurricane relevant on NCAA Tournament Selection Sunday.
Changing Tulsa's fortunes in March is what the coaching change was all about.
"That's the plan," said Manning. "I'm familiar with Conference USA and the level of play. I don't know all of the ins and outs of every university in the league. However, I know the level of play is very impressive.
"I will be curious to see what is next in conference realignment and how it will shake out for us."
Clarkson's decision could have a big impact on the immediate future of Tulsa. He is a fine offensive player who was great at getting to the bucket off drives.
However, Tulsa has other potential offensive stars, players who appeared to have offensive skills in spurts the past year or two.
So, this is about finding out what the current players can do and how new players will fit into Manning's system.
"We've had conversations with all of the guys," said Manning. "You never know what is going to happen when they go home and talk with their family. You don't know.
"So, we've prepared for everything so that there are no surprises. We'll find a way and work it out and move on."