Danny Manning met with members of the media in Irving, Texas on Tuesday to preview Tulsa's final season in Conference USA. Manning went 17-16 (8-8 C-USA) in his inaugural season as head coach and expects to make strides in the years to come.
"There's so much 'Go Get 'Em' in you that first year," Manning said. "Wanting to get everything in in the first week or first couple of days and then realizing it's a journey, it's a process, it takes time to build and you have to continue to work to get better each and every day."
"The suggestions I was making as an assistant are a little bit different than the calls you make when you're a head coach."
Manning's team is still young; 12 players are underclassmen, but that doesn't curtail his expectations. Specifically, Manning looks to James Woodard and D'Andre Wright to pick up where they left off a year ago as members of the All-Conference USA Freshmen Team.
"Those two guys had great years for us in terms of making the freshman all-conference team, but there's more weight placed upon them this year because we know what they're capable of and how they played last year," Manning said.
Woodard averaged 12 points and 6 rebounds per game a year ago and Wright averaged 8.5 and 5, but Manning looks forward to the return of forward Rashad Smith, who played in just four games last year before suffering a foot injury. Before getting hurt, Smith was scoring 14.5 points and 4.8 rebounds a contest.
"(Smith) is healed, had a very good summer," Manning said. "We're expecting him to pick up where he left off from last year after playing those first four games."
Manning also boasted about the shape senior Pat Swilling Jr. is in following summer conditioning.
"Pat has really dedicated himself to getting in really good shape and his body looks good. Pat is a very confident young man and he's kind of my gunslinger. He's going to shoot the ball."
Six of the Golden Hurricane's 16 defeats in 2012-13 came by seven points or less. Manning said his team can learn from those close losses.
"We go back as coaches and talk about one possession early in the game that cost you the game down the road," Manning said. "And that's something that we harped on over and over again and I think our young guys are starting to grasp that understanding that a possession in the first half is just as valuable as a possession at the end of a game."
"Last year was a trying year in the sense of it was new for everybody. New for the coaches, new for the players. This year we have players teaching players and we didn't have that in the past so that's always nice."
Tulsa's first exhibition contest is against Haskell Indian Nations University on Halloween night in the Reynolds Center.