Asked about reports that he’s the next coach at Tulsa, Kansas assistant coach Danny Manning talked only about the Jayhawks.
“I’m here to give my full effort to help this team win a national championship,” Manning said upon arriving Wednesday night at the team’s Final Four headquarters.
Manning wouldn’t address reports by CBSSports.com and ESPN, citing unidentified sources, that said he had accepted the position, replacing Doug Wojcik.
It would be Manning’s first head coaching job after spending nine years on the KU bench, the last five as a full-time assistant.
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Tulsa’s athletic department issued a news release that put the brakes on the reports.
“The University of Tulsa has not reached an agreement with any candidate for the head basketball coaching position at the school. As stated when the coaching search began on March 11, TU officials will not discuss any candidates until an official announcement is made by the university.”
Bill Self told a group of reporters in New Orleans that Manning had interviewed for the Tulsa job and was excited about the prospects. “But it’s not done,” Self said.
If Manning is Tulsa-bound, he would be the second member of the Kansas staff to depart.
On Wednesday, Barry Hinson was introduced as Southern Illinois’ next coach. Hinson, 50, had been Missouri State’s coach during 1999-2007 and was Oral Roberts’ coach the previous three years, replacing Bill Self after he went to Tulsa.
About 9 p.m. Wednesday, Hinson arrived at the Kansas’ headquarters with his Saluki lapel pin and a necktie in the school’s maroon and white colors.
“It was great,” Hinson said. “They’re really hungry for a winner there.”
Hinson said he would be with the Jayhawks through the Final Four weekend.
“I’m going to work with the University of Kansas until Monday night at 11 o’clock,” he said.
Hinson, who owns a 205-140 career record, replaces Chris Lowery. He had taken the Salukis to six straight NCAA Tournaments — pushing Kansas to a three-point game in a 2007 Sweet 16 in 2007. But Southern finished 8-23 this season.
At Kansas, Hinson has served as director of basketball operations and among his duties was to plan the team’s travel. Such a job might seem beneath a coach with as much experience as Hinson, but he said in an interview last month that his approach to the job was no different than coaching.
“It’s like going from the CEO of a company for 11 years as a head coach back to the mail room,” Hinson said.
KU coach Bill Self called Hinson “a huge asset to our program.”
“Everyone within the university and department has enjoyed him being here so much,” Self said, “but his goal was always to get back on the sidelines as a head coach.”
Self’s best? — Is this Bill Self’s best coaching job in his nine seasons at Kansas?
If the award is based on team performance vs. preseason expectation, the answer is yes.
In 2008, KU was preseason No. 4 when reaching the Final Four. His two other teams that started the season ranked worse than No. 13 — where this team started the season — fell far short.
In 2009, the Jayhawks started No. 24 and were knocked out in the Sweet 16, and the 2006 team was unranked to begin the season and lost in its first NCAA Tournament game to Bradley.
Self was asked about his performance earlier this week, and passed on the answer directly. But the response was revealing.
“I’ll say this, this has been one of the easier coaching jobs that we’ve had,” he said, “because it’s been easy to get guys to buy in and be exactly what we want them to be.”
Surpassing expectations beats the alternative. Twice KU was ranked No. 1 entering a season, and neither team got out of the first weekend. The 2005 team lost to Bucknell in the opener and the 2010 team lost to Northern Iowa in the round of 32.
Shooting woes don’t kill — In past NCAA Tournaments, bad three-point shooting has contributed to season-ended losses. The Jayhakws were two of 21 against VCU in last year’s Elite Eight, and six of 23 (26.1 percent) against Northern Iowa in 2010.
This season, Kansas has been shooting bricks in the postseason but the house hasn’t crumbled.
Two of the team’s seven worst three-point shooting games have been in the tournament. The Jayhawks had their worst game of the year against North Carolina State, (one of 14) in the Sweet 16, and hit only 25 percent (six of 24) against Purdue.
“The first couple of games in the tournament, we didn’t do so well, but our defense stepped up,” center Jeff Withey said. “That gave us more confidence.”
Handling diversions — The Jayahwks team headquarters is in the heart of New Orleans, walking distance from Bouborn Street and the French Quarter. But Self said he believes his team can handle distractions.
“You have to trust your guys that they are mature enough to handle certain things,” Self said. “They should enjoy this.”
Halftime adjustment — In NCAA victories over Purdue, North Carolina State and North Carolina, Kansas didn’t lead at halftime. The Jayhawks trailed the Boilermakers and Wolfpack and was tied with the Tar Heels. But in the first two games, KU had made up some ground from biggest deficits and then went toe-to-toe with one of the nation’s best offensive teams in North Carolina.
So the feeling wasn’t downcast heading into the locker room, and Self said the team was upbeat on Sunday after Elijah Johnson stripped Harrison Barnes for the layup in the final few seconds that knotted the game 47-47.
“Little things like that, that give you momentum going into half because we had totally screwed up the first half being up seven,” Self said. “Guys just have a timing to make plays like that.”