WINSTON SALEM, N.C. -- Danny Manning walks through the hallways of the Wake Forest basketball offices, pointing out plans for new artwork. His customized office furniture -- because Bed, Bath and Beyond doesn't often build pieces for 6-foot-10 former NBA All-Stars -- has arrived from Tulsa and the focus has turned to redecorating the place.
Large portraits of Chris Paul and Tim Duncan, two of the most recognizable players in the NBA today, will line the hallway while an entire wall in the meeting room, currently empty, will be covered with a record of Demon Deacons playing professionally. An appreciation of the program's history and success at the next level is something not lost on new head coach Danny Manning, a 15-year NBA veteran.
Inside Manning's office, you notice a jewelry box with an impressive collection of championship rings on a table to your right. The title rings might draw your attention, but Manning asks every visiting prospect to draw their eyes above the box to a framed poem on the wall. The poem is called "What Now My Brother" by Dr. Dick Bennett.
"It's about life after basketball; are you ready to make that transition," Manning says of the poem written by a former NBA player. "A lot of times, we -- and I say 'we' as a former professional athlete as well -- we stumble in that transition. A lot of times part of the reason that we stumble is because basketball, in the big picture, is something that you do; it's not who you are."
|Vital Info: WFU's Danny Manning|
Though only entering his third year as a head coach, Manning speaks like a wise and seasoned veteran. He lists his father, Ed, along with Larry Brown and Bill Self, who gave Manning the opportunity to learn as a staff assistant and eventually associate head coach at Kansas, as the greatest influences on his coaching philosophy. He'll stress player development (on and off the court) along with graduation, but Manning's greatest advantage as a coach may be his ability to relate to every player on the team.
"As a player, I've been the guy that's been called upon to start and score points," Manning says. "I've been a starter, a facilitator, I've been sixth man, I've been a rotation guy, I've been a non-rotation guy, I've been injured. I've had every role on a team throughout my career that you can have. So I can relate to each individual on our team. I'm not sure exactly how that particular person is feeling, but I've got a pretty good idea.
"That's something I like to share with all of our guys. Also, for me, I'm not in the situation I'm in now unless I took my academics seriously. At some point in time the air is going to go out of the ball."
Manning described more of his coaching philosophy in an extended Q&A with CBSSports.com for our "
CBSSports.com: What made Wake Forest appealing?
Manning: Well, I think for me there were a lot of things that were really appealing to me. I grew up in Greensboro, and so a chance to kind of come back here to this area where I grew up. I have a lot of great childhood memories here. Number two; I think the university. What the university stands for and how they represent themselves; I thought it was a good match for my personality. Playing in the ACC ... it just added up to a great opportunity and situation.
CBSSports.com: What have been some surprises during your first few months at Wake?
Manning: I think the amount of support has been overwhelming, but [chuckling] we're still undefeated. There have been a lot of people, a lot of well-wishers, which has been very nice. This is the second job that we've taken over, and it's kind of par for the course so to speak. You have to go out, you have to meet the people on campus that you're going to come in contact with. We're just trying to go out and let everyone know that's affiliated with Wake that we're here and we're excited to be here and we're going to do things the right way.
CBSSports.com: Talk about your decision to retain former Wake Forest great Randolph Childress from the previous staff:
Manning: Randolph's situation is very similar to the one I was in at Kansas. I've got an idea of the things that he goes through just because I've been there before in a very similar type of situation. But Randolph has been great. Just from the standpoint of helping us navigate new waters, because this is new for a lot of us. His connections with people he can put you in contact with, his relationships; we're leaning very heavily on those. I'm glad he's a part of our staff and I'm excited about it.
CBSSports.com: How would you describe your coaching philosophy?
Manning: 'What's good for the team is good for you.' And that's just the mentality that we have to have. I think Coach Self talked about it all the time, “The pie is big enough for everybody if we do it the right way.” Ten years from now, what will the legacy of that team be? There are certain instances where people say, “Hey I remember when Randolph Childress scored 35 points per game in the ACC Tournament and Wake Forest won.” That's a great moment. That's a great memory. But you talk to Randolph and he'll talk about, “We had a good bunch of guys on the team and everybody sacrificed for each other and we did it for each other” or “Coach Odom really had us playing at a high clip.” Those are the memories that you cherish as a former member of the team.
CBSSports.com: So he remembers the brotherhood of it, not just breaking [North Carolina guard] Jeff McInnis' ankles on that killer crossover?
Manning: [Laughing] I'm sure he remembers that too. That was a heck of a move.
CBSSports.com: What are your feelings on the rising number of transfers in college basketball:
Manning: There's always going to be situations in recruiting where it doesn't work. Or as coaches we miss on a kid. That happens. Because we can't control kids picking a school for whatever reason they pick it for. A number of the transfers we've had, a lot of them are picking the wrong school. I think the [NCAA has] become very lax on the waivers. I do. I think we need to get a little bit more of a hardline stance on the waivers. Probably moreso than for the fifth-year guys or the guys that have graduated from a university and transfer somewhere else. I'd rather see them continue to have immediate eligibility than [ungraduated] transfers who have…
CBSSports.com: Questionable waivers?
Manning: Right, and get immediate eligibility. Those are all things that will have to be addressed. A lot of times in the recruiting process, people hear what they want to hear and see what they want to see. Then they get into certain situations and it just doesn't fit, for whatever reasons. It's something that we try our best to educate and talk to the people we're recruiting, the young man and the parents, about the total experience. It's not all glamour and glitz. It's hard work. To be successful in any field takes sacrifice and hard work.
CBSSports.com: Transfers can create opportunities for other players. Who do you expect to step up alongside Devin Thomas and Codi Miller-McIntyre as primary contributors for 2014-15?
Manning: I think those two guys are two guys the Wake Forest fans and ACC fans are familiar with because they've been playing for the last two years, but just that junior class in general. I think they're ready to make a change. They've been playing for two years now. They understand it, they feel it; what it takes. I truly feel that they're ready to make a change.
CBSSports.com: How have you developed as a coach?
Manning: I think the way that I've gotten to where I'm at right now in the coaching profession ... all the steps in the process I went through were very necessary. I retired from the NBA after 15 years of being fortunate and blessed enough to play, to step into a role as director of student athlete development-backslash-team manager. I wanted to know all the inner workings. In order to do that, you have to start from the ground level up.
Coach Self provided a great opportunity for me, created a spot for me, to get started and work my way up. I got a chance to see what the managers go through, what the trainers go through, what the medical staff goes through, then you move up to director of ops-type things. All that, up to assistant coach, has been very beneficial to me. I got a pretty good idea, kind of like as a player, when I relate to all those guys and whatever role they have, I feel the same way about the staff I have here. You're not doing anything that I haven't done before at some point in time.