- Associated Press - Thursday, March 29, 2012

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Danny Manning’s last game as a player at Kansas ended with a national title. He hopes his last game as an assistant coach for the Jayhawks does, too.

Manning has agreed to become the head coach of Tulsa, joining Barry Hinson as the second assistant from coach Bill Self’s staff to announce their departure during the week of the Final Four. Both coaches will assume their new duties after Kansas is done in New Orleans.

The Jayhawks play Ohio State in the national semifinals Saturday night.

“Right now my focus is on Kansas and its participation in the Final Four,” Manning said in a statement released by Tulsa on Thursday. “We’ve worked extremely hard to get to this point, and we want to keep it going for another few days.”

Tulsa officials are planning an introductory news conference next week, and the notoriously media shy Manning managed to slip away from practice Thursday unnoticed.

His move comes after Hinson, the Jayhawks’ director of basketball operations, accepted the job at Southern Illinois. He was introduced Wednesday before rejoining Kansas in New Orleans.

“We’ve been fortunate. We had two guys get jobs yesterday, and I don’t know how much that happens,” Self said Thursday afternoon at the Superdome. “The big thing for me is when I told those respective schools, I said, `I’m fine, but let’s do it now. I don’t want the rumors and to have to lie and say you haven’t taken a job. Hey, let’s get it out of the way now.’”

Manning takes over for Doug Wojcik, who was fired by Tulsa on March 11 after four 20-win seasons and three postseason appearances, though none in the NCAA tournament. Tulsa hasn’t made the field since 2003, the second of back-to-back trips to the second round.

The Golden Hurricane is even further removed from the heights it reached under Self, who was coach from 1997-2000 and led the program to a 32-5 record and regional final in 1998.

Still, Manning’s new program appears on solid footing.

The Golden Hurricane have had six straight winning seasons, four with at least 20 wins, including back-to-back 25-win campaigns that included trips to the CBI and NIT. Tulsa went 17-14 this past season, losing in triple-overtime to Marshall in the Conference USA tournament.

Tulsa returns four of its five leading scorers next season, including dynamic guard Jordan Clarkson, who averaged better than 16 points during his sophomore year.

“The most important thing is we can’t distract from the bigger picture. That’s what a great job Kansas has done this year,” Tulsa athletic director Ross Parmley told The Associated Press in a phone interview Thursday. “They’re playing for an awful lot down in New Orleans this weekend, so as soon as that comes to an end, whenever that is, we’ll get him in front of our team.”

Few players are so closely connected to a school as Manning to Kansas.

The program’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder, Manning remains ninth on the NCAA’s career scoring list with 2,951 points. He was a consensus All-American in 1987 and ‘88, and led the Jayhawks _ the team coined “Danny and the Miracles” _ to the 1988 NCAA championship.

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