WINSTON-SALEM — One doesnt win championships as a player and a coach by backing down from tough challenges.
Danny Manning sees no need to start now that he has been introduced as the new Wake Forest basketball coach.
Its our name, Manning said Tuesday. Its who we are.
Were going to go out there, and were going to go toe-to-toe. Were coming out, and were throwing blows, and were going to continue to throw blows. Were going to take some knocks along the way, but were going to fight, and were going to scrap.
At the end of the day, I think if we put forth the effort necessary, were going to continue to develop and get better. Hopefully there will be a lot of teams that dont want to see us.
Manning was named the coach Friday, while he and Athletics Director Ron Wellman were in Dallas at the Final Four. On Tuesday, Manning appeared with his wife, Julie, and children Taylor and Evan at a media conference that was followed by his pep rally on the main quad of campus.
Displaying generous parts humility and determination, Manning described a style of play he hopes to instill in a program that suffered through four frustrating seasons under his predecessor, Jeff Bzdelik.
Manning was the national player of the year for the Kansas team that won the 1988 NCAA championship and an assistant for the Kansas team that won the 2008 title. In between, he overcame three knee surgeries to play 15 seasons in the NBA.
He spent the past two seasons at Tulsa, his first head-coaching position, and led his team to this seasons Conference USA title and first NCAA tournament appearance since 2003.
I think for us, we want to come in and be an up-tempo team, Manning said. We want to be aggressive offensively and defensively. We want to create energy.
Were going to hang our hat on the defensive side of the ball. Were going to make sure we go out and compete defensively. Were going to contest every pass. Were going to try to contest every shot. We dont want to give up any unearned, or easy buckets. I think thats the first thing we have to establish.
And offensively, we want to be in an attack mode. I believe in paint touches. We want to get the ball into the paint, either by the bounce or by the pass. But I think once youre able to do that, you break down the defense, and it gives you a chance to be a little bit more successful on the offensive end.
Manning joked that the Final Four is not the best place to be while accepting a new job because of all the coaches on hand who want jobs. He said hes in no great hurry to assemble his staff but said he plans to give heavy consideration to his assistants at Tulsa Brett Ballard, Wendell Moore and Steve Woodberry.
His director of operations at Tulsa, Justin Bauman, was with Manning at the Final Four and at Tuesdays festivities.
Well see the exact number I dont know, Manning said. I think a lot of it will be determined by being here for a few days and deciding what we need and what were looking for in terms of a staff and also in putting together a group that can go out and recruit. Thats the name of the game. Youve got to go out and get players that fit your system, fit your profile and fit your university.
Wellman said he was impressed with the way Tulsa overcame six losses in its first seven games this past season to win 11 straight late in the season.
He said he asked in the interview what Manning did differently to turn the team around.
On Tuesday, Wellman repeated Mannings answer.
He said Nothing. We didnt do anything differently. We just believed in the system that we had, and we just worked a little bit harder. Everyone came along and started to understand what this system was about and what our beliefs were about. And that played out into a great season at Tulsa this year.
Manning spent most of his childhood in Greensboro, said he grew up watching ACC basketball and remembered when Wake Forest played its home games in Greensboro.
We have aspirations of being a championship team, he said. We want to cut down nets. Were going to put forth the work to put ourselves in that situation.
Its not going to be easy, but Im willing to roll up my sleeves and lets go get it.
The Winston-Salem Journal is a news partner of the Observer. For more Wake Forest coverage go to www.journalnow.com/sports/wfu/