Maryland Basketball assistant on Willard’s style, living his Terps dream, Gary Williams’ lessons and more

For anyone in college basketball, landing your first major assistant coaching job is a big deal. But it was extra special for Maryland’s Greg Manning Jr., who’d grown up loving the Terps because of his father, a former Maryland star and later the program’s radio analyst.

“It’s exciting. I have been a Terp for a long time. I grew up in Cole Field House when my dad was doing the radio with Johnny for 13 to 15 years, I believe. I was a ball boy for the Terps. I grew up going to camp here. So this place is special to me. I’ve always dreamed about coaching here, whether it was as the video coordinator as the director of ops, as the assistant coach,” Manning, who Kevin Willard promoted in April from director of operations to the bench, said this week on the Hear the Turtle podcast.

“But for coach Willard to put trust in me after one season working for him, I had known him for a while. When I was at Loyola, he was at Iona. So we were playing against each other, recruiting against each other, stuff like that, but not to the point where you just hire somebody as an assistant. So I think I showed the ability in a year that I could do the job.”

It wasn’t just the opportunity to stay at his dream school that excited Manning. He’s also been big Willard fan since before Willard was hired.

“One, he’s a great person. I think that’s most important. He’s a really good human being, he cares about his family first. He cares about the kids like their his own, on the team. And then the staff, he doesn’t micromanage you, which is awesome for us, as long as you’re getting your work done. Kevin kind of allows you to work in that manner. Now, he really works. Coach is in here at 6 a.m. every single day,” Manning said.

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“So there are a lot of expectations to get things done and to work hard. But I’ve learned so much from him in just a short time. I guess, 12 months almost exactly now, working for him. But he’s great. Like I said, he’s a basketball mind. He comes from a great family. His dad was a head coach for a long time. But he’s fun to work for. He’s demanding. But I wouldn’t want any other way. You want to work for somebody that’s going to make you better. And I think coach Cox and coach Jones and guys in the past will attest to this.”

Manning’s opportunity opened up when then-assistant Grant Billmeier left to become the head coach at NJIT. He was one of three Willard staffers to get head coaching jobs in the span of a month, along with Tony Skinn (George Mason) and Tevon Saddler (Nicholls State). Head coaching trees rarely grow that fast.

“Obviously, we saw three guys get head jobs off of this staff last year. So he prepares guys to, when they do have an opportunity to get that head job, that they’ll be ready with just the amount of work that we put in. I’ve worked some for some really good coaches and Jimmy Patsos and coach Turgeon, obviously, here, who’s won a lot of games. So everybody’s a little bit different,” Manning said. “But the amount of respect I have for coach Willard is right up there with any of them, just because of the amount of work he puts in and the preparation he goes to every single day for this program.”

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