Greg Manning

If you were a white kid growing up on Reading High basketball in the 1970s, especially one growing up in the suburbs, one thing became apparent and it became apparent immediately: If you were white, and you ever wanted to be any good, you better be able to play against Reading High, and all black players. Period. End of story.

And Reading High had black players. But Reading High and its players defied the stereotypes that often cloak black teams: undisciplined, poorly coached, up-and-down style, athletic but not fundamentally sound.

But I was lucky! I saw Reading High play basketball before I even knew what a stereotype was. And as I’ve said before, at Reading High, basketball was beautiful. The legendary Pete Carril coached there early in his career, and then came the best coach you never heard of: Jim Gano.

Reading High was more athletic than most of its opponents, but the Red Knights were also smarter. Reading High was quicker than most of its opponents, but it out-executed you into oblivion. Reading High players could dunk better than most opponents, but they could also pass and cut better than opponents. Reading had it all: The best athletes, the best coach, the most discipline on a court I’ve ever seen.

Of course there were terrific white players who came through Reading High: Gary Walters, Stevie Hahn and Perry Wentzel, Steve Rossignoli, Neil Christel, Tony Bonanno, Pete Pasko, Pete Mullenberg and plenty of others. But those white guys WERE ON Reading High. I was never going to be ON Reading High.

Then I saw Greg Manning play. Greg Manning was Steelton-Highspire’s incredible point guard who ended up going to Maryland. He graduated from Steelton in 1977, which means I saw him as a junior at 11 or 12 years old. Greg Manning was the template for me, the first white guy I saw up close who knew how to play against black players. Greg Manning and Steelton gave the Red Knights fits. I don’t know what the head-to-head record was between Reading High and Steelton in the 1970s, but both teams and fans had their share of incredible highs and immense lows.

Manning was 6-foot-3 and quick, but there were still things any young player could take from him. And I did. … the shot fake, the leaning in to create contact, the best way to take advantage of getting a half-step on a defender, make your damn free throws, get rid of the ball sooner rather than later, use both hands, and on and on and on.

A few years later, I started watching Larry Bird and he became my guy for more than a decade. But before Bird, there was Greg Manning and he was a bad, bad boy.


About Steinmetz

Matt Steinmetz is a veteran San Francisco Bay Area sports journalist. He covered the Golden State Warriors for the Bay Area News Group for more than a decade before becoming a television analyst with Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. Steinmetz can be heard on "Steiny & Guru" on 95.7-FM The Game in San Francisco, from 12-3.
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1 Response to Greg Manning

  1. Anonymous says:

    I even think coach Wolf would agree that Jim Gano was a great coach.


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