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Tulsa starts anew with Danny Manning as coach

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Tulsa starts anew with Danny Manning as coach

TULSA, Okla. (AP) When it comes to basketball, Danny Manning has done it all.

As a player, he experienced the best there is as an NCAA champion at Kansas and an NBA All-Star with the Los Angeles Clippers. He understands the worst there is, with three serious knee injuries that forced him to find ways to stay competitive without the same athleticism and sparked an interest in coaching.

Back at his alma mater, he started off in operations and steadily moved up the food chain until he was an assistant coach on another team that cut down the nets.

And now, he's ready to begin another endeavor - his first chance to be a head coach.

Hired this April by a middling Tulsa program hungry to return to the NCAA tournament, Manning makes his debut Sunday when the Golden Hurricane host LSU-Shreveport. It's another big step in a steady decade-long progression for Manning.

``I thought it was very important for me to know how everything worked from the ground up, and there's no better way of knowing what happens on the ground level than being there and working it, and working my way up,'' Manning said.

``I think it's something that benefits me each and every day.''

Manning, 46, has spent the past seven months molding a team that was largely shapeless when he took over.

Three players, including leading scorer Jordan Clarkson, transferred out of the program after predecessor Doug Wojcik was fired following six straight winning seasons but no NCAA tournament appearances.

Three others graduated and starting forward Kodi Maduka gave up the sport for medical reasons after he collapsed during a pickup game the same day Manning was hired in April.

That put Manning in a position to bring in seven newcomers to mix with the three players left on the roster with college experience - starting guard Scottie Haralson, part-time starter Tim Peete and reserve Rashad Smith.

``It's new to everybody,'' Manning said. ``Your seniors don't know any more than the freshmen, and so you don't have anybody teaching and showing guys how to do things because nobody knows. That's been the roughest part.''

With so much change, Manning was thankful he was able to get a head start because of a new NCAA rule allowing coaches 2 hours of workouts per week with their players and a foreign exhibition tour to Canada.

Still, there's plenty of work to do to instill his own unique brand of basketball at Tulsa.

``I'm not smart enough to say that I invented anything or came up with anything. We all borrow as coaches, we all borrow as players and we tweak and we work it to the best of our ability with the team that we have,'' Manning said.

``I would like to think that you see our team and you say, `These guys come out here and they work hard.' That's what I want you to say when you see them on the court. I think when you see them off the floor, we want you to see how good of young men they are.''

Manning has instituted an aggressive, pressing defense and during exhibition play deployed all the youthful players on his bench to keep it going. In the second preseason game, the Golden Hurricane amassed 113 points - their most in exhibition play since 1993.

``We want to be a team that establishes tempo, that create tempo, and we want to be in attack mode,'' Manning said.

``We want to have the reputation of when somebody sees Tulsa coming in the gym and just goes, `Oh boy, here they come,''' he added. ``And not because they're so much more talented than you. It's because they're going to play hard the whole game.''

Manning's head coaching debut comes 10 years after his final NBA season with the Dallas Mavericks. But it was another life-changing event that propelled him to Tulsa.

``The one thing that really opened my eyes, for me, was when my father passed away a couple years ago, not wanting to put my aspirations on hold thinking that tomorrow is promised and it's not,'' Manning said.

``At that point, it was one of those situations for me, if I want to get past this hurdle in terms of being a head coach and running my own program and make it happen as soon as possible.''

After his father, Ed, passed away in March 2011, Manning worked with his boss, Bill Self, and other assistants on the Kansas staff with head coaching experience to build a portfolio and what he called a ``blueprint to a championship program.'' It was all ready when Tulsa athletic director Ross Parmley pursued him during last season's NCAA tournament.

It includes a life skills component intended to prepare his players to be husbands, fathers, friends and providers for their families after basketball.

Ex-Tulsa star Shea Seals is in charge of the program, including etiquette and financial planning sessions and visits from former players, policemen and military representatives.

``There's so many talented athletes that are so immersed in what they're doing at that present time that their sport becomes who they are, and it's not who they are, it's what you do,'' Manning said.

``Who you are goes back to the characteristics that you have as a person, and that's what we want to stress.''

Although basketball has provided Manning careers as a player and a coach, he understands that not every college player will follow that path - and he hopes to connect with them all.

``I'm very comfortable when I recruit a young man that I've been on a team where I've been called upon to score points or be a star, I've been a starter, I've been a sixth man, I've been a role guy, I've been a rotation guy, I've been on the injured list. I haven't played,'' he said. ``There's not a role that I can't relate to that a player has on our team.''

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: Who could win the Conn Smythe Trophy?

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Who could win the Conn Smythe Trophy?

The Stanley Cup is not the only trophy that will be awarded at the end of the Stanley Cup Final series between the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights. The Conn Smythe will also be given to the player deemed the most valuable to his team during the playoffs.

Who will that player be?

It's not hard to figure out who the frontrunner is right now. Marc-Andre Fleury hasn't just been the best goalie in the playoffs, he's been the best player with a dominant postseason in which he has posted a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. He has been so dominant, he could win it even if Vegas loses the series.

See the top contenders for the Conn Smythe heading into the Stanley Cup Final here.

The last player from the losing team to win the Conn Smythe was Jean-Sebastian Giguere from the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2003.

But what about the Caps?

Alex Ovechkin is the leader of Washington and has been absolutely dominant throughout the postseason. He even scored the series-clinching goal in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Surprisingly, however, Ovechkin does not lead the team in points through the playoffs. Evgeny Kuznetsov holds that edge with 24 points to Ovechkin's 22.

Will their offensive dominance propel them to win the Cup and the Conn Smythe? Will a different player emerge as the hero of the series?

See the top contenders for the Conn Smythe heading into the Stanley Cup Final here.

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS:

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Need to Know: A closer look at Alex Smith's contract with the Redskins

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Associated Press

Need to Know: A closer look at Alex Smith's contract with the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, May 26, 17 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp.  

Note: I am vacationing in the Outer Banks this week. In this space, I’ll be presenting some of the most popular posts of the last few months. I hope you enjoy these “best of” presentations and I’ll see you folks when I get back. 

Contract makes Alex Smith a Redskins for at least three seasons

This post was originally published on March 19. 

When the Redskins traded for Alex Smith on January 30, news also broke that he had agreed to a four-year extension with Washington in addition to the one year left on his contract with the Chiefs. While we got some top-line numbers on the deal, we have gone since then without any details. 

Until now. 

The details show a deal that has a slightly higher cap hit in 2018 than was on his original Chiefs contract and the numbers rise gradually over the life of the deal, which runs through 2022. 

Smith got a $27 million signing bonus and his salaries for 2018 ($13 million) and 2019 ($15 million) also are fully guaranteed at signing making the total $55 million (information via Over the Cap, which got data from a report by Albert Breer). 

But there I another $16 million that is guaranteed for all practical purposes. On the fifth day of the 2019 league year, his 2020 salary of $16 million becomes fully guaranteed. He almost assuredly will get to the point where that money will become guaranteed since the Redskins are not going to cut him after one year having invested $55 million in him. So the total guarantees come to $71 million. 

His 2021 salary is $19 million and it goes up to $21 million in 2022. There have been reports of some incentives available to Smith but since we have no details we’ll set those aside for now. 

The cap hits on the contract are as follows: 

2018: $18.4 million
2019: $20.0 million
2020: $21.4 million
2021: $24.4 million
2022: $26.4 million

The Redskins can realistically move on from Smith after 2020. There would be net cap savings of $13 million in 2021 and $21 million in 2022. 

The first impression of the deal is that the Redskins did not move on from Kirk Cousins because they didn’t want to guarantee a lot of money to a quarterback. The total practical guarantee of $71 million is second only to Cousins’ $82.5 million. It should be noted that Cousins’ deal runs for three years and Smith’s contract is for five. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler