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Chuck Landon: Hamrick goes way back with Tulsa coach

Jan. 09, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

Once upon a time, there was a conversation that sounds like a fairy tale.

The ironic fact that it took place in the Land of Oz, otherwise known as Kansas, just makes it seem more whimsical.

Yet, Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick swears every word is true, despite no confirmation from the Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion or even John Calipari.

It all began in 1983. ...

"I'm an assistant athletic director at the University of Kansas," said Hamrick. "We had just hired Larry Brown as the basketball coach. His first year was 1983-84. I was with Larry and a couple of other guys. ... Bob Hill, a longtime assistant there and John Calipari who was an assistant. We were sitting around at a fund-raising event and Larry had just gotten off the phone.

"He comes in and says, 'Guys, we're going to win a national championship here at Kansas.' And I say, 'That's great, Larry. What has gotten you so excited?' He said, 'I just hired a great assistant coach.' And I said, 'Who is it?' He says, 'His name is Ed Manning.'

"I was kind of puzzled about how an assistant coach was going to win a national championship for us. So, I said, 'How do you know him?' And Larry said, 'He played for me in the ABA.' I said, 'Where's he coaching now?' And he said, 'He's not coaching.' I said, 'What's he doing?' He said, 'He's working for a trucking company in Greensboro, N.C.'

"And I said, 'Wow, Larry, and this guy is going to help us win a national championship?' He said, 'Yep. He's got a son who is 6-foot-10 and is the best high school basketball player in America.' I said, 'What's his name?' He said, 'His name is Danny.'

"I could see those assistant coaches' eyes light up like Christmas trees. But I didn't know who Danny Manning was. I can remember Larry saying, 'I've got to get Danny Manning out of North Carolina. I've got to get him away from Dean Smith.'

"And Larry had been a great player at North Carolina. I don't think the people from North Carolina have ever forgiven Larry Brown.

"Danny was a junior, so Ed moved to Lawrence (Kan.) and Danny came with him. He played his senior year at Lawrence High School in '84, which was my last year at Kansas, and led them to a state championship.

"We would all go down and watch Danny play. He was just a phenomenal player and he was such a classy, classy kid. He reeked of 'Yes sir, no sir.'

"Then, Danny played at Kansas in 1985-86-87 and they won the national championship in '88. They were called 'Danny and the Miracles' and Danny was voted the outstanding player in the NCAA Tournament.

"But I will always remember the day that Larry Brown said, 'Guys, we're going to win a national championship here at the University of Kansas.' "

That's quite a tale.

Yet, it becomes even more compelling when the ending is added. Twenty-five years later, Manning, Brown and Hamrick are all in Conference USA.

The pupil, Manning, out-coached the teacher, Brown, by leading Tulsa to a 48-47 win over SMU on Sunday. Next, Tulsa plays Marshall at 7 p.m., Wednesday, in the Henderson Center, giving Hamrick and Manning a chance to renew old acquaintances.

But the best part of this fairy tale come true?

They really did all live happily ever after.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2827 or clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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