Old Kansas friends Danny Manning, Mark Turgeon meet again

Old Kansas friends Danny Manning, Mark Turgeon meet again
December 28, 2013, 4:30 pm

Mark Turgeon searching for answers after loss to BU

(USA TODAY Sports)

COLLEGE PARK--Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon wouldn’t trade the 1987-88 season for the world. Fresh out of school after his playing career at Kansas, he was a graduate assistant in Lawrence under head coach Larry Brown and, simply put, he got to sit back and watch.

He watched Brown and the country’s best player, Danny Manning, lead the Jayhawks to a national championship, pressure relieved and as he puts it, happily “riding coattails” in a different role two years after helping the 1985-86 Jayhawks to the Final Four.

“That was the best year of my life,” Turgeon told the media on Saturday. “People think, well, you graduated. Wouldn’t you have loved to be on the championship team? I was like no, I had my chance … I wouldn’t trade my fifth year for anything.

“I thank Danny all the time for the national championship ring.”

On Sunday in College Park, those paths cross again, this time with both former Jayhawks now coaches themselves, as Manning’s Tulsa team takes on Maryland at Comcast Center at 7 p.m.

Manning, who would go on to become the No. 1 overall pick in the 1988 NBA Draft, averaged 14.0 points and 5.2 rebounds per game over the course of his professional career while making the All-Star team twice.

He got in on the ground floor at Kansas after his playing days as a special assistant in charge of student-athlete development. He then became an assistant with the Jayhawks before being hired as Tulsa’s head man in 2012.

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“When he made all those millions, I didn’t think he would go through this,” Turgeon said. “But the other thing I love about Danny is Danny never thought he was better than you, whether he was the best player in the country, which he was, and the No. 1 pick.

“And then when he got into coaching, and this is kind of the advice I’ve given [Maryland special assistant Juan Dixon], is Danny started at the very bottom and worked his way up and didn’t step on any toes and kind of waited his turn … and then became a head coach.”

He became a head coach now in his second season, working through a difficult non-conference schedule that includes games against Oklahoma, Creighton, Witchita State, Indiana State, and now Maryland.

“I had a lot of fun with Danny. We had a lot of fun together. It was a lot of fun to play with him. It was a lot of fun to be his teammate. It was a lot of fun to hang with him off the floor, too,” Turgeon said. “Like most friends, you kind of grow apart and our relationship with basketball has kept it together.”

And together again they’ll be on Sunday night, opposite one another on the sidelines, though you can expect it to be all business once the game begins.

“It won’t hurt our relationship,” Turgeon said. “When the game starts, you’re not worried about who’s coaching down there … That’s the way Danny and I will approach it tomorrow.”