John Klein: Manning ready to add to TU's basketball tradition
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Friday, November 09, 2012
11/09/12 at 5:11 AM
Go to John Klein's Blog Original Print Headline: Manning set to add to Tulsa's tradition
There is an upside and downside to coaching at a tradition-rich basketball school like Tulsa.
"Since I've been the coach at Memphis, we've lost 29 games," said Memphis coach Josh Pastner. "And they've wanted me fired 29 times."
Such is life at a school where the expectations of the fans often exceed reality.
Danny Manning will step into that arena at TU this weekend when the Golden Hurricane opens the season.
The Golden Hurricane has a glorious history, especially a 22-year run with 13 NCAA Tournaments, three Sweet Sixteens, one Elite Eight and two NIT championships.
Three former Tulsa coaches - Nolan Richardson, Tubby Smith and Bill Self - have gone on to win national championships.
Manning gets it. Tulsa has a great history and tradition. TU fans could not care less about winning seasons. This is about NCAA Tournaments.
"That's why guys want to coach at a school like UTEP or Tulsa," said UTEP coach Tim Floyd. "It is certainly the reason I wanted to be at El Paso. It beats being on the other end of it. You want to coach where there are those expectations to be good.
"That creates a level of pressure. But, I think coaches want that pressure because you definitely want the expectations. You want to be somewhere the fans care. Fans care at places like El Paso and Tulsa."
They care all around the Tulsa region. Arkansas spent lavishly to bring back Mike Anderson, a former player at Tulsa and assistant at Arkansas, to coach the Razorbacks.
Oklahoma spent far more than expected to lure Lon Kruger to Norman. Oklahoma State's Travis Ford has added pressure in Stillwater, where the Cowboys are expected to break out of a two-year NCAA Tournament slump this season.
Even at Oral Roberts, where Scott Sutton has returned the Golden Eagles to the NCAA Tournament with three appearances in the past seven years, there is bitter disappointment when ORU doesn't reach the Big Dance.
"Our history has created a great brand for us, especially in this region, and it is a great foundation from which to rebuild," said Manning.
Houston coach James Dickey, a former assistant at Oklahoma State and Arkansas, knows all about expectations.
Houston has five Final Fours and three former players who were named to the 50 greatest players in NBA history - Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and Elvin Hayes.
Yet, when Houston was the surprise winner at the 2010 Conference USA Tournament in Tulsa, it was UH's first NCAA Tournament bid in 18 years.
The days of Phi Slamma Jamma are 28 years gone.
"There are a lot of people around Houston who remember those years and remember all of those guys," said Dickey. "I think it is great to coach at a school with that kind of history and tradition.
"Obviously, we've gone through a drought like several teams in this league with a great history. But, it is great to have that history on your side. I want our guys to understand why those jerseys and why those banners hang in our gym. It is motivation."
If TU fails to reach the NCAA Tournament this season, and there is little hope for such a quick turnaround, then Tulsa's NCAA Tournament drought will reach 10 years.
In 2003, Tulsa was eliminated by Wisconsin's 3-pointer in the final seconds in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. At the time, it seemed almost inconceivable that TU could go an entire decade without an NCAA Tournament appearance.
Yet, Tulsa went into decline in coach John Phillips' third season, primarily because of a recruiting recession. Then, coach Doug Wojcik believed a winning record was the goal and TU suffered through seven years of mediocrity.
That's how the Golden Hurricane now finds itself mired in its worst period of basketball since the 1970s.
Manning has vowed to return TU to the NCAA Tournament. He understands. This is not about winning seasons. This is about reaching the NCAA Tournament.
"That is certainly the expectations that we have as a coaching staff," said Manning. "That's where we want to go.
"That's what we think about when we think about the future of this program. We are preparing our team for that kind of challenge."
Tulsa history is an advantage but it also adds to the expectation, and thus pressure, for the coaches. There is a certain level of success expected at a school like Tulsa.
"When I got to Texas Tech, there weren't those kind of expectations and it is different in a situation like that," said Dickey. "They didn't have those expectations out in Lubbock.
"When you get to a school like Houston or Tulsa, there are those expectations. These folks expect a quality product. There is a level of expectations and enthusiasm that is different. It is higher. I think that is a good thing."
Manning will get his dose of expectations at Tulsa, where fans may not expect an immediate turnaround, but things will get restless on 11th Street if things don't dramatically improve in the next few years.
"I always wanted to coach at a place where they really care about basketball," said Pastner. "They really care about basketball at a place like Memphis. They care at places like Tulsa.
"There is just so much enthusiasm at a school where basketball is important. There's also an added pressure. But I think you would always want that pressure so that you could have that enthusiasm and those expectations."