They came to Kansas five years ago with all the subtlety of a tornado. There hadn't been anyone this notorious in these parts since the James Boys, Jesse and Frank. Or more wanted, for that matter.
Ed Manning came to the University of Kansas first. Larry Brown, the new basketball head coach hired in 1983-84, added Manning to his staff as an assistant coach in charge of recruiting. Manning and Brown went back a ways, to the days when they both played for the Carolina Cougars of the ABA.But friendship wasn't the only reason Brown pulled Manning out of a high school coaching job in Greensboro, N. C., to join the staff of the Jayhawks. There was also the matter of Ed's only son, Danny, who had already, as a 6-foot-9 junior, taken his Page High School team in Greensboro to the North Carolina state championship.
When Ed and his wife, Darnelle, moved to Lawrence, Kansas, Danny and his kid sister Dawn had to naturally come along.
Ed's job was to recruit Danny out of high school.
Other colleges still gave it their best recruiting shot, such was Danny's stock. North Carolina, North Carolina State, Lousville and Georgetown, among others, persisted as Danny suited up for his new high school in 1983-84 Lawrence High and carried a new bunch of teammates to a 22-2 record and second place in the Kansas state tournament.
By now he was regarded as the top recruit in the United States.
He asked his dad where he thought he should go.
Ed said, hey, how about the school in Lawrence. The one that gave him a job.
Danny said OK.
It wasn't the first time an assistant coaching job had been used as a recruiting device. Not even the first time at Kansas. Jim Ryun, the great miler, had found his way to KU that way, as a matter of fact.
Now all that remained for the Mannings was to hold up under the strain, that and prove that all the fuss was worth it. They weren't exactly inconspicuous a 6-8 dad and his (by now) 6-10 son whose pictures, by the time Danny was a freshman, had been on every newstand in the country.
Some people, in particular North Carolinans, thought they had sold out. When Kansas and the Mannings went to Greensboro for a game in Danny's second year the North Carolina State fans tried to boo Danny and Ed out of the state. These were two people who couldn't come home again.
After a 71-56 win, during which Danny somehow scored eight points, they got out of town as quickly as possible.
They were Kansans now, and their mission was with the Jayhawks.
The 'Hawks went 26-8 Danny's first season and 35-4 his second season, when they went to the NCAA Final Four in Dallas before losing in the semifinals to Duke. With four points in that game Danny was a nationally televised disappointment. And when the next season ended with a 25-11 record and a third-round NCAA tournament loss to Georgetown, Danny thought he'd had enough of the great Kansas experiment.
The NBA let him know they would give him instant employment.
So last summer he told Ed and Darnelle that he was seriously considering that option.
"That's when we sat down and had a little talk," said Darnelle Manning. "We had to remind Dan of something we'd talked about ever since he was small."
"If you start something, you finish it," said his mom, an educator herself (she teaches kindergarten). "He came to Kansas to get a degree."
Danny saw the light and returned for school in the fall of 1987, six months ago. When Oct. 15 came, the first day of basketball practice, Ed Manning rolled out the basketballs and looked up at the 6-10 kid in front of him.
"You back?" he said, grinning.
As with all the other years, but with even more intensity because this would be the last time, Ed exercised his option to be his son's toughest critic.
"When it's your kid, you can say anything you want," said Ed. "Sometimes you just have to give the right look, don't say nothing, and the point gets across loud and clear."
Their last college season together ended last night, in Kemper Arena, as Danny scored 31 points, pulled down 18 rebounds, blocked two shots and came up with five steals against Oklahoma in the NCAA tournament's national championship game.
When Danny Manning knocked down two free throws with five seconds remaining to clinch KU's 83-79 win, Ed Manning, normally a picture of composure on the bench, leaped off his seat. When the game clock then expired he ran to his prize recruit of four years ago and gave him a long championship hug.
"Danny, we did it," said Ed.
"We sure did," said Danny.