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April 4, 2014

Looking for a coach

On Friday morning, Danny Manning made his decision to leave Tulsa and take the head coaching position at Wake Forest. TU will now look for a new coach to further the program's momentum.

Manning coached just two seasons at Tulsa, compiling a 38-29 record in his first job as a collegiate head coach. Last season, he led the Golden Hurricane to a 21-13 mark. TU captured a share of the Conference USA regular season title and won the C-USA Tournament, earning a berth to the NCAA Tournament.

While it didn't appear likely that his current resume would spark interest from other programs, Wake Forest came calling on Monday, and Manning visited with the school's athletic director. Manning then met with the Tulsa administration on Tuesday, followed by a trip to Winston-Salem on Wednesday to tour the Wake Forest campus.

On Thursday morning, Manning had breakfast with the president of Wake Forest before flying to Dallas in the afternoon. By Friday morning, Tulsa had a coaching vacancy.

Sources close to the situation told InsideTulsaSports.com that TU put together a strong financial package to keep Manning in place, including a base salary close to $1 million plus incentives. It also included more money for assistant coaches and an increased travel budget. Yet it wasn't enough.

"The University of Tulsa men's basketball program has enjoyed two years of incredible growth under head coach Danny Manning, and we congratulate him on this next step in his career," said TU President Steadman Upham. "Danny has been a committed member of the TU family. He has led by example, instilling integrity and building success among our student-athletes. It is no wonder Danny has been nominated for coach-of-the-year honors and that he has chosen to further his professional life with an institution such as Wake Forest, which has exceptional academic credentials and a rich tradition of excellence in college basketball. We wish Danny and his family all the best in his new endeavor."

Manning helped get the Tulsa basketball program back on track. After a 25 year span that included 18 postseason appearances, TU was in an 11 year drought without a trip to the NCAA Tournament. That drought ended this past season.

"In his two seasons, Coach Manning has helped elevate our basketball program to a level that our fans expect -- conference championships and NCAA tournament appearances," said TU athletic director Derrick Gragg. "There's no question that the reputation of Tulsa basketball, our recent success and the student-athletes in the program will be attractive to the most qualified coaches."

"Under President Upham's leadership, the presentation made to Coach Manning in recent contract negotiations was an attractive and competitive offer. President Upham is committed to return Tulsa basketball to an elite level. The commitment he has displayed in this recent process is second to none that I have encountered during my 21 years as an athletic administrator."

With the situation behind them, Upham and Gragg will now focus on finding Manning's successor.

"We expect our basketball success to continue," said Gragg. "With the type of student-athletes that we have in our basketball program, I know that they will rally and work even harder to further the success that they achieved this past season in elevating Tulsa basketball even more."

Recruiting will be another issue to keep an eye on during this process. Tulsa signed 3-star point guard Mitchell Wilbekin of Gainesville (Fla.) Rock and 3-star shooting guard Micah Littlejohn of Mansfield (Texas) in the fall. Both have expressed concern with the news of Manning's departure, and Wilbekin says he is requesting a release from his National Letter of Intent. It would be smart for Tulsa to complete its hiring process as quickly as possible.

TU will retain a search consultant and has already begun the process of screening candidates; however there is no specific timeline for the announcement of a new coach.

An initial list of potential candidates has been posted in Hurricane Alley. This list will be updated as additional information is received. All news and information we receive regarding Tulsa's coaching search will be immediately passed along in Hurricane Alley, so stay tuned!

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