All KU alumni have special memories of KU’s magical run to the 1988 NCAA Championship– even those who played in it. Danny Manning, now head basketball coach at Wake Forest, remembers exactly how it felt to “seal the deal” and secure the Jayhawks’ first NCAA title since 1952. The former NCAA Player of the Year and number one pick of the 1988 NBA draft opened up about his championship experience in The Players’ Tribune, a blog featuring the voices of professional athletes from a first-person perspective.
In Manning’s post titled “It’s Over,” he vividly recalls the moment he put the game away, hitting two free throws with five seconds left, and the euphoria that followed. Yet the most memorable moment for Manning came during a quiet moment after the celebration.
“Sitting in the locker room with my teammates after winning the national championship, we talked about our season, which was my senior season. We talked about the tournament. And that’s when it hit us: That was the last time we’d ever be together on the court as a team. It was a somber moment for me, but also a very satisfying one knowing that I was a part of a group that was able to win a national championship.”
Manning’s team finished the 2015 season–his first as head coach of the Deamon Deacons–with a 13-19 record, placing 12th in the ACC conference and will miss the Big Dance this year. But don’t count Manning out. He aims to be back, because he knows what it takes to get there, and he can still recall exactly how good it feels to reign supreme as NCAA Tournament Champion.
“It’s a gamut of emotions that hits you at that point, but lastly, there’s a sense of calm after the storm, and all that’s left is the joy of what you’ve accomplished with your teammates.”
Never fond of the moniker ‘Danny and the Miracles,’ Manning reflected on the sheer joy of playing with his teammates in what he emphasized is a team sport.
“We weren’t the most talented and we weren’t the most athletic, but we played together and we played for each other. That’s what made us great. It wasn’t “Danny and the Miracles.” It was just the Kansas Jayhawks.”
– David Johnston