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#TGW: Manning The Post

#TGW: Manning The Post
New assistant coach Brandy Manning expects to bring out big things from Jackets post players
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word

A true optimist believes that when one door closes another opens.

Brandy Manning is such an optimist and for good reason.

It not only happened to the recently hired Georgia Tech women’s basketball assistant coach but marked the turning point of his coaching career.

Back in 2003, Manning, a 23-year-old California native and a 2002 Clark University graduate, was at the University of Louisville pursuing his master’s in education. While there, he thought he’d try to expand his basketball coaching horizons by working with the men’s basketball program. So he approached then-head coach Rick Pitino.

“I just offered my services. I got the runaround and I read between the lines real quick and said, ‘You know what? I appreciate it, but…. I left and went down the hallway,” he recalled. “I’m walking down the hallway and I see a gentleman unpacking his boxes. I walk in and say, ‘I’m Brandy Manning. I’m just trying to get in contact with somebody who’s responsible.’”

That someone turned out to be Louisville’s recently hired women’s basketball head coach Tom Collen. It was there he got his introduction into women’s basketball. Collen asked Manning to hold some workouts during the summer months, which turned into a graduate assistant position in August. The rest is history.

That history has seen Manning build his resume with stops at Murray State (2006-07), Central Florida (‘07-08), Arizona (‘08-13), Southern California (‘13-14), Texas State (‘14-15), and Cal State Northridge (‘16-19). While no door closed or was even closing at Northridge, the door swung open wide for him on The Flats on May 16, when new head coach Nell Fortner offered him a position on her staff.

“To be honest, it wasn’t even on my radar,” he said, with a laugh. “She reached out to mutual friends. I didn’t know this but they spoke highly of me and she became intrigued. We finally spoke and we spoke for about a week and got to know each other and just hit it off. She sold me on her vision of what she’s trying to do here at Georgia Tech, she sold me on her as a person. That’s the biggest thing. It was a no-brainer. It was just like, ‘Okay, I’m going to Atlanta in a couple of weeks. But it was good. This is like my second home.”

Manning’s first home was California, but he has a lot of positive associations with Atlanta.

“This is where I went to school, where I came into my own,” he said. “My first real job out of college was here, I met my wife (Nakaya — they have two sons Brandyn and Quintyn and a daughter Devyn) here. I established and built lifetime friendships. It’s been great. My wife’s from D.C., but she has family here in the Atlanta area.”

Manning expects to add more positive associations in Atlanta by helping the Yellow Jackets win. He’ll primarily handle the post players, which includes returning junior Lorela Cubaj, but means filling the void left by the transfer of freshman Elizabeth Dixon.

Here’s where the lesson about closing and opening doors comes in handy and should for the hungry Jackets seeking floor time.

“This whole thing boils down to opportunity, period,” he said. “You’re looking at a team that easily could have won 21 games last year. Now these kids see that they have an opportunity, a clean slate. We may have lost some talent, but the talent that we have here will have an opportunity to re-emerge or to do the things that they chose to do when they first decided to come here.”

Manning sees size as another advantage for the ‘19-20 Jackets’ bigs. Among the returning forwards, Cubaj and redshirt junior Anne Francoise Diouf stand 6-4, while redshirt sophomore Daijah Jefferson and sophomore D’Asia Gregg are 6-2.

“One thing you can’t teach is size, and we have plenty of that,” he said. “We have a lot of kids who are talented and we have some coming in. All of them are a year older, they’re excited. Since I’ve gotten here, they’ve all had a willingness to learn and a hunger to get better. This is a group that wants to be good. They want to do great things.”

Manning’s past posts have done great things under his watch. While he was at Cal State Northridge, Manning worked with center Channon Fluker, a two-time Big West Player of the Year and two-time Defensive Player of the Year, who graduated as the school’s all-time leading rebounder and shot-blocker, and forward Eliza Matthews, the 2016 Big West Freshman of the Year and a 2019 Big West All-Defensive Teamer. At Arizona, Davellyn Whyte was recruited by Manning and he helped her development into 2010 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year and a four-time All-Pac-12 honoree. She’d be selected 16th overall by the WNBA’s San Antonio Silver Stars in the 2013 Draft.

Manning plans on adding to his list at Tech, and although he played down his role in his players’ past successes he recognizes his responsibility in helping get them there.

“I’m not ‘The Post Whisperer,’ however, if you have kids that are coachable, who want to get better, it’s my job — it’s our job as a staff — to put them in positions to be successful,” he said. “I think the biggest thing is, people have to feel that somebody believes in them. If kids feel that you believe in them, the sky’s the limit, especially when they have talent and God-given ability on their side. Do I feel we have that here? No question. We’ve got some kids that are going to surprise some people this year. I really do believe that. I see it. I’ve seen it throughout my career and we have it. We definitely have it.”

Manning has proved he also has it when it comes to bringing kids in. His recruiting resume is as impressive as his developmental accomplishments. He brought in the Sun Belt Conference’s top recruiting class in 2014-15 for CSUN according to All-Star Girls Report, signed three top-100 prospects as part of the nation’s No. 15 class for USC, rebuilt the program at UCF by bringing in eight stellar student-athletes and signed up Whyte to Arizona.

“It boils down to people. That’s all recruiting is,” he said. “We have to be able to evaluate and assess talent. That’s what we see first. Then you have to be able to get them on the phone and build a relationship, not only with the kid, but with the people that are around the kid, whoever is influential in that kid’s life. So you’re building a relationship. At that point it’s your job to get her on campus or become interested in seeing, at least, what you have to sell or provide. So you get her here and then the fourth thing is closing the deal. If you’ve checked off all the boxes on the previous three, everything else at the end, it comes together.”

A psychology major at Clark, who earned his master’s in education, has shown himself versatile in building relationships in pretty much any situation.

“I’ve sold small-town America, I’ve sold college towns, I’ve sold metropolitan areas. Those things have helped me become a better coach, let alone recruiter, because I’ve been able to talk to different people in different areas,” he said. “Being in those different places has allowed me to really get to know different parts of this country and the people that occupy those parts of the country, versus me always being in a city and then, all of a sudden, I have to go to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, to recruit a kid. It’s a little different. But, again, my experiences have only helped me in my career, being able to just talk to people.”

He feels being able to talk to people on behalf of Georgia Tech gives him a stacked deck.

“If you have something that the kids and their families are interested in, it only enhances it,” he said. “At Georgia Tech, you have a great city in Atlanta, you have a great academic institution, that has a tremendous reputation of being one of the top public institutions in the country, and then you have a great conference, which, in my opinion, was the best conference in women’s basketball last year. It’s a no-brainer. What I do is I come in and I just be myself.”

Manning believes that being himself and following Coach Fortner’s vision for the program will allow him to continue yet another trend that has followed him around — winning.

The 2018 Northridge team won the Big West Tournament and the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The 2013-14 Trojans won the Pac-10 Tournament and earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in eight years. UCF won Conference USA Championships in 2009 and ‘11 and ended a 10-year NCAA Tournament drought in 2009. In his two years at Louisville, the Cardinals went 42-19, reached the CUSA Conference Championship game and the NCAA Tournament. In addition, Arizona ended a six-year absence from postseason, getting to the WNIT in 2011 and Murray State reached postseason for only the second time in its program history.

He believes the framework is in place.

“Good habits are being formed,” he said. “Once we get through the summer, habits and routines are established, so that when we go into the fall, they’re familiar with how things go about here at Georgia Tech. It’s a new day, it’s a new staff, it’s a new culture.”

ACC Network – Coming Aug. 22
The ACC Network is a linear and digital platform dedicated to 24/7 coverage of ACC sports. It will exclusively televise approximately 450 live events each year, including approximately 40 football games (beginning with Georgia Tech’s 2019 season opener at Clemson on Aug. 29), as well as 150 men’s and women’s basketball contests.

 Don’t get shut out! For more information and to learn if your cable/satellite/digital provider is committed to carrying the ACC Network, visit GetACCN.com. Georgia Tech fans whose cable/satellite/digital providers aren’t already committed to carrying the ACC Network are urged to contact their providers and ask for the ACC Network to be a part of their subscription.

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