COLLEGE PARK — As different as the gym rat and blue-chip star seemed on the surface, Mark Turgeon and Danny Manning had a lot in common when they became teammates and best friends playing for Larry Brown at Kansas in the 1980s.
"They've got the same values, they were great teammates, they were really cerebral, both grew up with families that were involved in the game," Brown recalled in a telephone interview Saturday. "The biggest difference is that one guy is 5-[foot-]10 and the other guy is 6-10."
Now, a quarter-century after Turgeon began his coaching career as a graduate assistant on a team Manning led to the 1988 NCAA championship — a team forever known as "Danny and the Miracles" — the two former Jayhawks will face each other when Maryland plays Manning's Tulsa on Sunday night at Comcast Center.
They are in similar situations, trying to rebuild programs that once regularly reached the NCAA tournament. After making progress his first two years, Turgeon's 7-5 Terps have taken a step back. After a surprising 17-16 record last season, Manning's first as a head coach, Tulsa is 4-8.
"You don't ever want to play against friends," Turgeon said after practice Saturday. "If you look at Danny's schedule … they've played some pretty tough teams. We thought they'd be pretty good, which they still have a chance to be."
Since coming to Maryland, Turgeon has twice faced former Jayhawks on the sideline. .
The Terps defeated Colorado, coached by Tad Boyle, a former Kansas teammate, at a tournament in Puerto Rico two years ago. Turgeon has also faced Roy Williams, his former boss at Kansas, losing all six of the matchups with North Carolina.
In his first season at Tulsa, after being an assistant at Kansas for nine years, Manning's team split two regular-season games with Southern Methodist, where the now-72-year-old Brown revived his Hall of Fame career last season.
Manning said Saturday that facing Turgeon will be not much different than coaching against Brown.
"The connection is going to be there," Manning said before his team practiced at Maryland. "We're going to go out and compete, but when it's all said and done, the respect and love won't change. That's the sign of a great relationship."
It was obvious early in Turgeon's career at Kansas that he was going to be a coach, often stopping practice to ask Brown why he ran a certain play or put the team in a specific defense.
But it was not as apparent with Manning, who, despite a succession of knee surgeries that turned him from the 1988 NBA draft's No. 1 overall pick into a journeyman player, still managed to play in the NBA for 15 years.
Brown thought Manning would become an NBA assistant after he retired, and Turgeon said his friend surprised him by returning to Kansas in 2003.
"I knew he was a smart player," Turgeon said. "When he made all those millions, I never thought he'd go through this. The thing I love about Danny is that Danny never thought he was better than you, even when he was the best player in the country and the No. 1 pick."
Turgeon said he gave the same advice to Manning that he recently passed on to another former Final Four Most Outstanding Player, Juan Dixon, who is now special assistant to the Maryland coach.
"Danny started at the bottom and worked his way up. He didn't step on any toes and he kind of waited his turn and got his kids through high school and off to college and became a head coach," Turgeon said. "He's been around Larry Brown, [Kansas coach] Bill Self. He's been around a lot of good coaches and he's going to be able to attract players because of who he is."
Manning said Saturday that he started thinking about coaching when he was still playing in the NBA. Because injuries forced him to miss so many games, Manning started to see the game from a different perspective. He began putting together scouting reports on players he would face when he was healthy.
"For me, it was trying to gain an advantage when I stepped on the court," he recalled.
Toward the end of his career, Manning started coaching his own children.
"I enjoyed it, and it kind of evolved from there," Manning said.
Down in Dallas, Brown will tape Sunday's Terps-Golden Hurricane game. Even if he wasn't busy scouting players at a local high school tournament, it would be hard for Brown to watch the nationally televised matchup in real time.
"I can't win," Brown said. "That's going to be a miserable day for me. I got to coach against Danny twice and I hated every minute of it. Neither one of those games for me were fun, except for me looking down at the end of the bench and feeling pride that he's a coach. I'm proud of both of them."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun