Twenty-five years ago Larry Brown and Danny Manning led Kansas to its second national championship.
Today, after all those bouncy basketball years, they're coaching rivals in Conference USA, Manning at Tulsa and Brown at SMU.
Brown and Manning both won their debut games last week. Brown's Mustang's beat Loyola Marymount 73-58, and the crowd chanted his name.
Somebody asked Brown if he was nervous. He had not coached a college basketball game since that 1988 NCAA championship game against Oklahoma.
"Oh my god," Brown said. "This was a long day."
Manning and the Golden Hurricane beat LSU-Shreveport 110-54. The home crowd also was good to Manning.
"I didn't know what to expect," he said. "It was good to go out and see all the people that had support for our team."
Manning and Brown face each other twice this season, Jan. 6 in Dallas and March 6 in Tulsa.
The symmetry goes a little deeper, however. Manning spent the last nine years in Lawrence, Kan., working for Jayhawks coach Bill Self, first as director of basketball operations and then as an assistant coach. Twenty years after he led KU to the national title as a player, he helped do it again as a coach. Brown, who was not working at the time, informally spent a lot of time with the Jayhawks during that season, and particularly during the Final Four run.
He would take the Charlotte Bobcats job the next season and hold it for two years. Manning, meanwhile, stayed in Lawrence, where he became renowned as one of the country's top coaches of big men. Of the nine players who regularly started in the paint for Kansas during the time Manning was a coach there (2006-12), eight were drafted into the NBA and the ninth, Jeff Withey, is a likely NBA pick at the end of this season.
Brown's resume is notoriously exhaustive. While Manning's head coaching career is really only beginning, the 72-year-old Brown appears to be winding down. Then again this is Larry Brown, we're talking about.
Austin in Waco
I don't know what you thought about Isaiah Austin, the Baylor freshman, before the season started. I know I've had my fill of "he's a big guy with a perimeter game" recruiting analysis over the years. That tends to translate one of two ways once he reaches the major-college level:
1) Made a certain number of 3-pointers in high school because he was six inches taller than everybody else and therefore always open.
2) Doesn't rebound.
There aren't many Kevin Durants, is what I'm getting at.
While I don't think Austin is another Kevin Durant, it sure does look like the guy can score. He has scored 44 points in 34 minutes this season. Read that again.
Here's the thing, though: He has just eight rebounds and two blocks in those 44 minutes. The guy is 7-foot-1. I don't want to get too critical of a freshman who's playing his first two games, and played very well on offense, I just think Baylor probably has some other guys who are capable of making 3-pointers, and not as many 7-footers who could impact a game in the paint the way Austin (probably) could.
Big games early
One of the delightful things about the college basketball season is that it typically begins with some sexy matchups, and this week brings the sexy back in a big day.
Kansas vs. Michigan State. Duke vs. Kentucky.
Both of those games are in Atlanta on Tuesday as part of the Champions Classic. No. 7 Kansas faces No. 14 Michigan State at 6 p.m. central, and No. 2 Kentucky and No. 8 Duke complete the double-header at 8:30 p.m.
Player of the Year watch
1. Cody Zeller, Indiana
Didn't do anything in a blowout win over Bryant that makes me think he's not still the leading candidate.
2. Trey Burke, Michigan
Had 21 points and eight assists in a win over Slippery Rock, and we all know how treacherous those can be.
3. Isaiah Austin, Baylor
If he averages 51.7 points per 40 minutes, he'll be the only serious candidate for this award. He won't do that for the rest of the year, but he has done it so far.
Ups and downs
Up: Kansas State
Bruce Weber had a nice debut in Manhattan, beating North Dakota by 33. Granted, the Wildcats should blow out North Dakota, but Weber was a somewhat unpopular hire among K-State fans who thought a program that had been more successful than Weber's Illinois squad over the last few years could have gone a little bigger. Then again, there was also a robust contingent of K-State fans who thought the school should have hired Doug Gottlieb, so take that for whatever it's worth.
The point is, nice start for Weber and the Wildcats.
Down: Michigan State
The Spartans lost to UConn, which isn't exactly a "bad loss," but it's a loss nonetheless, which will move Michigan State "down."
We've discussed Isaiah Austin already, but we haven't mentioned junior forward Cory Jefferson, who didn't get much time last year. He's averaging 20 and 10 through Baylor's first two games. Pair him with one of the country's best point guards (Pierre Jackson), a sharpshooting 2 (Brady Heslip) and maybe the freshman of the year and Baylor is once again a terrifying offensive team.
We knew it was going to take a while for an 11-man rotation full of underclassmen to find themselves, and we knew coach Rick Barnes was spending more energy on coaching defense this season, but knowing those things does not erase the reality that Texas scored 55 points against Fresno State. The Longhorns won, by two, but still.
Conference power ranking
2. Big Ten
4. Big 12
5. Big East
Frosh to watch
Isaiah Austin, Baylor
The incredible scoring clip he's on can't possibly hold up, and Austin is a big waifish to bang around in the paint with veteran big men. But I also can't figure out how opponents are going to guard a 7-1 3-point shooter.
Perry Ellis, Kansas
It appears Ellis will lead Kansas in scoring this season. He's a smooth, 6-9 power forward who can face up or post up. The narrative in Lawrence already begins with, "When Perry learns to get more aggressive "
The Kentucky guys
Nerlens Noel had a tough debut, and may be more of a rim-protectorrebounder than a go-to offensive player, so we'll focus our attention on guard Archie Goodwin for now.
36 Points allowed by Minnesota on Friday, to American, which shot 23.7 percent, and had 14 points at halftime. Remarkably, it was the second time in four years the Gophers have held an opponent under 40. Illinois scored 36 against Minnesota on Jan. 29, 2009.
7 Number of NBA teams Larry Brown has coached since he last coached in college.
They said it
"We are a passive group right now and we have to pick it up. I'll keep saying it and I'm not going to back off of it. We are going to play against real guys real soon and those guys think that this piece of meat may be the last piece of meat on earth and they play like it. So, if we don't play like it, we will get our butts handed to us." Kansas coach Bill Self, on KU's upcoming game against Michigan State.
"You know what, I love these guys. They're the best, but we've got to win games, too. They've got to do their job. We've got to do our job. They did their job, and we didn't do our job. So, I still love them to death, and I spent as much time as I could with them, but I don't love us as much right now because we did not come out and play like the military works, and that disappoints me." Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, as quoted by MLive.com, comparing nearby military personnel to his team after a loss to UConn.
In a game with all the rhythm of a gorilla banging on a piano, Michigan State beats Kansas 58-54 Tuesday. Afterward, KU coach Bill Self says something about getting "big-boyed."
Duke makes 11 3-pointers, Kentucky guard Archie Goodwin commits six turnovers and Nerlens Noel spends most of the day in foul trouble as Duke beats Kentucky 79-67 Tuesday. Afterward, Kentucky coach John Calipari says something about how young the Wildcats are.