Posts Tagged ‘Bill Self’

Shed no tears for Andrew Wiggins

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Wolves head coach Flip Saunders talks about Andrew Wiggins’ potential

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Don’t cry for Andrew Wiggins.

That’s the message delivered by the last two men who coached the No. 1 Draft pick. When the Cleveland Cavaliers finally shipped Wiggins — shunned by LeBron James since the day the King announced his return to Cleveland six weeks ago — to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love on Saturday, he joined Chris Webber (1993) as the only No. 1 picks since the NBA-ABA merger to be traded before ever playing a game for the team that drafted them.

A sad end to a long, strange summer for Wiggins? More like an eagerly anticipated beginning, says Rob Fulford, Wiggins’ high school coach at Huntington Prep in West Virginia.

“Andrew is such a good kid; he’s just a classy kid, very humble, very respectful,” Fulford, now an assistant at Missouri, told NBA.com this week. “I think this whole process with the trade rumors, he could care less. That kid just wants to play basketball. The fact that LeBron never reached out to him, Andrew could care less what LeBron James thinks of him.”

Throughout this saga in which the Cavs selected the Toronto-born Wiggins No. 1 and watched him flash his promising skills during the Las Vegas Summer League all the while trade rumors swirled and LeBron sweet-talked Love, Wiggins, 19, handled the enormity of the situation with graceful maturity always accompanied by a warm, playful smile.

It didn’t surprise Fulford, who saw such characteristics from the time Wiggins arrived at Huntington Prep to enormous fanfare to the day he left for Kansas as a McDonald’s All-American. His departure included a heartfelt thank-you note to the people of the Huntington community published in the local newspaper.

“You have to understand, this kid, the media circus was around from the beginning when he got here in August of his junior year in high school until he left Huntington in May of his senior year after graduation,” Fulford said. “It was just a circus. I think it prepared him for what was going to happen at Kansas and even now he’s used to it, and I think he’s handled it really well. With the parents that he has, both have been professional athletes, I think it helped that he’s been kind of groomed in that manner.”

All Wiggins wanted, he reiterated during several interviews over the last month, was a place to call home, a place where he feels wanted. And so Wiggins will not flank the game’s greatest player on an instant contender in Cleveland, but instead will embrace replacing the fed-up Love as the next great hope for the long-languishing Wolves.

Fulford keeps in relatively close contact with the long-limbed, 6-foot-8 phenom, typically through text messages. The message he’s received loud and clear is that Wiggins is excited to make his own name for a franchise in need of a leader.

“Andrew’s going to be a superstar,” Fulford said. “This gives him a platform from Day 1 to kind of be the guy, and he’s ready for that.”

Earlier this month, Wiggins’ former coach at Kansas, Bill Self, said nearly the same after telling reporters that Wiggins had told him he hoped Cleveland would trade him.

“Even though, in a weird way, everybody would love the opportunity to play with LeBron because you’re guaranteed winning, for the longevity of his career, he needs to develop that mindset to be the guy for him to be great,” Self told reporters. “And I think being in Minnesota will help him do that.”

For glum Wolves fans, the Love fiasco has the potential to yield a happy ending after all. The greatest fear for an organization is it will never come close to recouping equal talent when forced to trade a disgruntled All-Star. Wolves president and coach Flip Saunders has reaped a haul as strong as anyone could expect.

In the three-team trade, Wiggins heads to Minnesota with the Cavs’ 2013 No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett and Philadelphia’s consummate pro, Thaddeus Young, 26, a solid immediate replacement for Love at power forward.

They’ll join a cast that includes 23-year-old, potential All-Star point guard Ricky Rubio, veteran guards Kevin Martin and J.J. Barea, emerging center Nikola Pekovic, small forwards Corey Brewer and Chase Budinger, Wiggins’ fellow Huntington Prep alum and quick-learning 2013 first-round pick Gorgui Dieng, and high-flying ’14 first-round pick Zach LaVine.

The fit in Saunders’ up-tempo plans should suit the slashing Wiggins well. Fulford said Kansas’ high-low attack that included big man and No. 3 pick Joel Embiid didn’t always afford Wiggins the driving lanes he craves, turning him into a jump-shooter.

“He’s going to have more space to work with,” Fulford said. “And he’s extremely … I won’t say he’s impossible to guard in space, but he’s close to it.”

Love’s Wolves never made the playoffs, a six-year span that included exceptionally disappointing endings to the last two seasons. Nobody should expect a rapid ascension this season in the competitive West as the Wolves again transition, but young and athletic, Wiggins’ new team is stocked with upside and should be an exciting squad to watch grow.

“I don’t think there’s any question he’ll have a great rookie season. He’s groomed for this,” Fulford said. “In college he got better the year he was there, but he’ll be a better NBA player than he was a college player, and he was an All-American at Kansas, so sky’s the limit for him.

“It’s one of those things, him being on a team where it’s kind of really going to be his, I think, is a good thing for him.”

So shed no tears for Andrew Wiggins. Or the Wolves.

On Rare Night, Brown, Manning Reunite

HANGTIME SOUTHWEST – On Sunday evening in Dallas, one of the rarest coaching matchups ever in college basketball will take place between Larry Brown and Danny Manning, two men whose relationship traces back decades and generations, and intersects as coach-and-player in the college ranks and in the NBA.

Now as colleagues, Manning, a rookie head coach, brings his Tulsa Golden Hurricane (8-6) to Moody Coliseum to face the legendary Brown in his first season leading the long-irrelevant SMU Mustangs (10-5) in both teams’ Conference USA opener.

“First of all, I dread this game,” Brown said Friday during a teleconference to preview the matchup. “Danny’s been such a big part of my life. Aside from watching him coach and knowing he’s a head coach, and we all take pride in that and know our game is better for that, it’s going to be a special moment for me seeing him on the other bench, seeing him coaching. But I don’t enjoy that opportunity because if we lose, I don’t take loses very well, and if we win, I’m not going to be happy about him being on the losing side.”

The two did very little losing at Kansas nearly a quarter-century ago.

In 1988, Manning, the Jayhawks’ star senior, and Brown, their respected, bespectacled coach, won the national championship. In today’s era, Manning might not have been around to win Most Outstanding Player honors. Instead he’d probably have been grinding through his third or maybe even fourth season in the NBA.

Sunday’s otherwise under-the-radar Tulsa-SMU matchup marks just the second time ever that the coach and MOP of an NCAA title team will face each other as head coaches, according to the hard-digging SMU media relations department. The only other time? Back in 1950 when Howie Dallmar, the 1942 MOP for Stanford, and coach Everett Dean matched wits with Dean still at Stanford and Dallmar at Penn. The pupil won that one 59-58.

In ’88, Manning’s father Ed, whom Brown coached briefly with the ABA Carolina Cougars, was on Brown’s staff. After the Jayhawks won the title, Danny Manning would become the No. 1 draft pick of the Los Angeles Clippers and Brown would take Ed, who died of a heart condition at age 68 in May 2011, with him to his first NBA stop with the San Antonio Spurs.

Five years later, Brown would reunite with Danny Manning as coach of the Clippers.

But what might have been if back then players routinely lasted one year in college as they do today or, before the one-and-done rule, played no college ball at all? Some top players in Manning’s day and before obviously left school after two or three seasons, but it wasn’t the norm. Manning had his chance to go.

“My story at Kansas, there was talk my junior year that potentially there could be some interest for me to look into the NBA,” Manning said Friday on the teleconference. “This is a true story, this is how it went down. My dad comes over to my apartment, he steps one foot in the door and he says, ‘You’re not ready,’ and it was end of discussion. He followed that up by, I think it was a Saturday or Sunday when the season was over, by, ‘Hey, you coming by the house to eat? Mom cooked today.’ And that was the end of my NBA thought-process, so to speak.”

As a junior, Manning averaged 23.9 points and 9.5 rebounds. He shot a remarkable 61.7 percent. As Brown remembers it, Manning would have been the No. 1 pick that season.  That pick belonged to the Spurs, who drafted a 7-footer out of the Naval Academy named David Robinson, a player they’d have to wait on to fulfill his service commitment.

“He’s not telling you the whole story on this whole going pro thing,” Brown said. “His dad and mom came in and saw me. I didn’t know what advice to give them. I thought he was going to be the first pick in the draft. I told his dad that. And based on my background with coach [Dean] Smith, if you were a lottery pick he didn’t let you come back to school. But I spoke to Danny and Ed, and Danny told me he promised his mom and his dad that he would graduate and I basically said, ‘Well, you can go in the pros and come back and graduate.’

“And then Danny kind of said, ‘Well, I really would some day like to be the first pick in the draft.’ And I thought, well, based on my knowledge and how good he was, I thought he’d be the first pick in the draft unless other general managers were crazy. And then the third thing he told me was, ‘I want to win a national championship.’ And I said, ‘Well, the other two we can handle, but you’d have to stay another year to do that.’ That’s at least the way I looked at the story. And lo-and-behold, he graduated, he was the first pick in the draft and we won a national championship.

“So, it was a great story. Maybe I made it up.”

Had Manning left, Brown probably wouldn’t own the distinction as the only coach to win an NCAA and NBA championship, which he got with the 2004 Detroit Pistons during his seventh of nine stops over 26 NBA seasons. But Manning stayed, and no coach has yet to match Brown with double crowns.

Manning went on to play 15 seasons in the NBA and averaged double figures in scoring in 10 of them. He’s seen plenty of short-timers come and go in the college game since his NBA retirement. He was an assistant at Kansas for nine seasons before moving up to Tulsa where he follows in the coaching tradition of Tubby Smith, Nolan Richardson and current Kansas coach Bill Self.

As seasoned as any pro in any draft after four years at Kansas, Manning said one reason he lasted so long in the NBA is because of the stream of young talent drafted into the NBA on potential, players that didn’t possess the maturity to stick.

“That’s the era that we’re in now and it’s based upon potential,” Manning said. “I’ve said this and lots of other people have said this many, many times before, all professional leagues, the backbone of those professional leagues are your solid veteran players and there are a lot of young men that come out early and aren’t quite ready for the rigors of professional athletics, but are there because of their potential.

“And I said I was fortunate and blessed enough to play 15 years. But part of the reason I was able to play that long is because the young men that were coming in weren’t ready. They weren’t ready to make a contribution to the team or accept the role that an older veteran will accept, knowing how special and unique it is to be a professional athlete.”