Danny Manning hopes for another turnaround at Wake Forest
By JOEDY McCREARY
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) Danny Manning probably could use another miracle.
Heading into his fifth season at Wake Forest, the former Kansas star's reign has been marked by rampant roster turnover, which continued Wednesday when yet another player left the program, and only a single NCAA Tournament appearance - which ended in a play-in game, no less.
Factor in the significantly more serious legal peril faced by an assistant coach police say punched a New York City tourist who later died, and it's been a series of setbacks for the headliner of the "Danny and the Miracles" run by Kansas to the 1988 national championship.
"I knew what I signed up for - I signed up for ACC play," Manning said. "And you never know what that brings. Every day is different. Every situation is different. Every circumstance is different and unique, and you navigate those as best as you can while still directing your program in a way that it continues to grow and develop."
The latest player to exit - sophomore backup forward Melo Eggleston - makes it six since February to leave the program early, either voluntarily or for disciplinary reasons. He's the third to transfer out, with two others turning pro early and a sixth dismissed for failing to meet program standards.
"Across the board, my mindset is, if you don't want to be here, then fine, don't be here," Manning said. "And that was the decision that he made."
Manning has gone 54-73 in four seasons since leaving Tulsa for Wake Forest, is 20-52 in Atlantic Coast Conference games and is coming off his second 20-loss finish in three years. His unquestioned best team was the 2016-17 group that finished 19-14, went .500 in conference play and earned the school's only NCAA Tournament appearance since 2010, losing in the First Four to Kansas State.
It's not lost on Manning that three of the key players from that team - big men John Collins and Doral Moore, and guard Bryant Crawford - would have been the centerpieces of this team, but each left school early for the allure of pro basketball. Collins was Atlanta's first-round draft pick last year, Moore went undrafted this summer but signed with the Memphis Grizzlies in August and Crawford is playing overseas.
"The plan was for them to be seniors this year, and those guys had had an opportunity to come in and develop," Manning said. "They've worked hard, and I'm happy for them."
Even if it's got Manning in a bit of a rough spot.
The top three scorers from last year are gone. This year's team returns only four scholarship players, junior guard Brandon Childress - the son of former Wake Forest star and current assistant Randolph Childress - is the only one who played in that NCAA Tournament game. Ten players on the roster have yet to appear in a game for the school, a total that includes six freshmen that comprise a Top 25-caliber recruiting class according to Scout.com, led by five-star forward Jaylen Hoard .
Away from the court, Manning says director of basketball operations Justin Bauman will continue to serve as an interim assistant coach "until we decide differently" in the wake of assistant Jamill Jones being placed on leave , but Manning also acknowledged that the decision doesn't belong to him.
Police have said Jones punched digital marketing guru Sandor Szabo early on Aug. 5, causing him to fall and smash his head on a Queens sidewalk. Jones has pleaded not guilty to a charge of misdemeanor assault.
Taken together, it has all been a lot to absorb for those who remain with the program, and they hope better days are coming.
"As of right now the 16 players on this team ... we're on one team, we're on one court," the younger Childress said. "So we go however each other goes, and all we can focus on is what we can control, which is what we can do on the court, and that's it."
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Updated October 10, 2018