Danny Manning’s International Playing and Coaching Experience Will Aid USA U18 Men
Manning reunites with Bill Self on coaching staff for 2018 FIBA Americas U18 Championship
The 2018 USA Basketball Men’s U18 National Team has a unique voice in Wake Forest University men’s basketball coach Danny Manning, who not only knows what it’s like to wear the red, white and blue, but who also knows what it’s like to coach a USA team from the bench.
Manning, a Hattiesburg, Mississippi, native who became the overall No. 1 pick in the 1988 NBA Draft after a hall of fame college career, is an assistant coach for the USA U18 team that will compete in the 2018 FIBA Americas U18 Championship, held June 10-17 in St. Catharines, Ontario.
He joins a staff that includes USA head coach Bill Self, coach at the University of Kansas, along with fellow assistant Anthony Grant, the coach at the University of Dayton.
“I’ve been fortunate and blessed to be a part of USA Basketball, and this is no exception,” Manning said. “I get the chance to work again with (USA Basketball CEO) Jim Tooleyand (Men’s National Team Director) Sean Ford, and they do a wonderful job.
“And for me to work again with Bill Self and learn from Anthony Grant, I’m excited. We have a very talented group of young men, and I’m looking forward to getting them as best-prepared as we can be to go to Canada with the ultimate goal of winning the gold medal.”
Manning in particular relishes the opportunity to work with Self again. It was Self who brought Manning back to Kansas, where he played from 1984 to 1988, as director of student-athlete development/team manager after retiring from pro basketball in 2003. By 2007, Manning became a full-fledged assistant coach and was part of the staff that helped the Jayhawks win the 2008 NCAA championship.
“For me, that was what I needed,” Manning said of starting out his post-playing career on the support staff before getting into coaching. “I needed to see this business from the bottom up, see how it worked and see the way guys handled things. I just wanted to be a sponge. I wanted to learn from coach Self, from (Kansas assistant) Norm Roberts… and all the guys coach had on staff. It was a great experience for me to be around those guys.”
Manning said that while Self taught him about coaching basketball, he also coached him on the intangibles, like how to challenge players and how to treat them.
“For me, this is like learning to ride a bicycle again,” Manning said. “I hopped out there onto the court and felt really comfortable with what coach Self was teaching and how he was teaching it. It felt really good.”
Manning knows what it means for basketball players to wear the USA crest. He won a bronze medal with the 1988 U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team, in addition to a silver medal at the Pan American Games in 1987.
Most recently, he helped coach USA Basketball to a bronze medal at the 2017 FIBA U19 World Cup and was a court coach for the 2014 USA Men’s U18 National Team training camp.
“For other countries, playing against the USA team is something they look forward to,” Manning said. “I was guilty of overlooking that as a player, and to a certain extent, these kids are guilty as well, because they don’t know any better.
“We have to get our guys to understand the importance of wearing USA on your chest. You’re going to get everybody’s best shot night-in, night-out, game-in, game-out. You’ve got to be prepared for that, and you’ve got to be able to battle through some adversity if things don’t go your way. We’re trying to incorporate these things into the team process.”
Manning explained that his experience as a player and as a coach for USA Basketball would be extremely useful on this coaching staff. He can work individually with players to help them understand those little details that can make all the difference in adjusting to the international game and, ultimately, forge them into better players.
“For me,” he said, “it’s a chance to share some of the things I’ve learned, whether it’s a little attention to detail defensively or offensively, or just a few things that I was part of, hopefully it will help bake us a little better as a team.”