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25 years later, the ties endure from NCAA championship game

Filed by KOSU News in Feature.
April 8, 2013

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The following post was written by Oklahoma State University Associate Professor Dr. John McGuire.


As college basketball crowns a new national champion tonight—the NCAA is also wrapping up the 75th anniversary celebration of its men’s basketball tournament.

This landmark season has called to mind some legendary championship teams of the past. One of the more improbable–and less noticed—title runs happened in 1988. That’s when the team known as Danny and the Miracles brought Kansas its first basketball title in more than three decades. That championship team has ties to the state of Oklahoma back then—and today.

The Kansas Jayhawks were just another team through most of that 87-88 college basketball season.

Despite the presence of six-eleven all-American Danny ManningLarry Brown’s KU squad had a year in which it would lose 11 games while watching Billy Tubbs’ OU squad race to what was back then the Big Eight conference title.

But long-time Jayhawk play-by-play man Bob Davis recalls some glimmers of hope—even after a four-game losing streak midway through the conference season.

“When they were 12-8, at one stage during the season, we thought ‘Man, this might be an NIT situation’. But then after a K-State game, I remember Larry Brown wasn’t upset, he was really happy with the way they played.”

Davis also recalls Danny Manning’s resolve about helping his team to a long postseason run as the tournament opened.

“Figured out a way in ’88, even with the injuries and so on that when they got to Lincoln to start the NCAA run, he was talking about ‘We’re not just here to win one game’. And I’m thinking…But he knew what he was talking about.”

And what a run it was.

Kansas went into the tournament with a 6 seed.

Thanks to some upsets—the Jayhawks faced lower seeded opponents in its first three victories.

That set up a rematch with their Sunflower State rival—the Kansas State wildcats coached by Lon Kruger—now the head coach at OU.

The Jayhawks beat the wildcats in the regional final to win a trip almost back home: the 1988 Final Four was taking place in Kansas City’s Kemper arena.

“They had a great game against Duke. A great start to that game. And then kinda had to hang on at the end to win it. And I didn’t know if they had anything left for Monday night or not. Oklahoma beat a very talented Arizona team in their semifinal game.

“But then that setup their third meeting of the year with Oklahoma, and the Sooners had won the first two. And another great irony in the fiftieth anniversary of the Final Four, it’s 50-50 at halftime in that ballgame. Just a super up and down game. And then Kansas kinda changed their approach in the second half and Danny led the way to victory.”

Manning earned recognition as the tournament’s most outstanding player that year—but Larry Brown believes to this day that Manning’s effort was one the best in tournament history…

“You know everytime I see these March Madness stuff, they were rarely mention just how special he was. And how he carried a team on his back against some quality opponents. You very rarely see that mentioned, and it blows my mind.”

It’s about 25-years after Danny and the Miracles… it’s a Wednesday night in early March at Tulsa University’s Reynolds Center.

The Golden Hurricane is playing the SMU Mustangs—and the central figures in KU’s 1988 title run are there—on opposite sidelines.

On one sideline paced Coach Brown.

Still going strong at age 72—trying to jump-start an SMU program that’s never achieved any sustained success in basketball.

Brown’s former pupil walked the opposite sideline.

Tulsa is Danny Manning’s first head coaching job—after serving many years as Bill Self’s assistant for his alma mater in Lawrence.

When asked about going up against his former coach—Manning says there’s still some emotion—but the focus is on the hardwood.

“He is a caring, loving person…until the game starts. Then when the game starts, he’s trying to beat your head in. And that’s the sign of a good coach.”

No one knows whether Larry Brown can make his SMU program relevant in college basketball.

For that matter—no one truly knows if this is Larry Brown’s last stop on his life-long, non-stop basketball journey. But ask him how he thinks Danny Manning will do in his coaching career—and Larry Brown leaves no doubt.

“He’s one of the greatest players to ever play our game, he’s one of the best human beings to ever be a part of our game, and he’s going to be a phenomenal coach.”

Coach Brown and Coach Manning will continue matching up in coming years. But no matter their futures—the past is linked to one of college basketball’s magic moments on an April night 25 years ago in Kansas City.

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