Mann, finalist for UM job, joins Kampe’s staff at OU

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Cornell Mann

Cornell Mann figures he was in seventh grade when he first met Oakland basketball coach Greg Kampe.

Now, he’s about to join Kampe’s staff.

“I’ve known Kampe for a very long time,” Mann said over the phone Tuesday. “He’s always been super solid and really good to me. He’s the type of guy that I would like to work for.”

At Oakland, he’ll join Kampe’s staff, which also includes holdover Drew Valentine and another newcomer, Dan Hipsher.

Saddi Washington, Kampe’s longtime right-hand man and instrumental recruiter, left to take an assistant job at Michigan, and Dionne Phelps has moved to Arizona for family reasons.

Former Wright State head coach Billy Donlon got the other assistant job at Michigan, which had three finalists for the two openings — Mann being the odd man out.

Michigan coach John Beilein had long histories with Washington and Donlon, and didn’t know Mann quite as well.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for how Coach Beilein did it,” Mann said. “We met a couple of times and talked. Ultimately, I think he just went with guys he knew.”

For Mann, this will be a homecoming.

He was raised in Royal Oak Township, and went to school at Ferndale High. Early coaching stops included Oak Park High School, as well as Western Michigan and Central Michigan.

“Obviously, this is a home run for us to get someone with Cornell’s background and where he’s been,” Kampe said. “I thank the university for allowing us to be able to pay him.

“He’s a local kid who’s recruited Detroit and Michigan his whole career, and has had tremendous success.”

Mann’s last coaching job was as an assistant at Iowa State.

He was let go by the new staff, after head coach Fred Hoiberg left Iowa State to become head coach of the Chicago Bulls.

“Yep, I’m glad to be home,” Mann said. “I get a chance to renew my roots, in terms of basketball in the state of Michigan, and getting to know the new coaches that have come about.

“I’m looking forward to that, and I’m looking forward to the old relationships with high school coaches and athletic directors.”

Mann sat out last season, after leaving Iowa State.

It turned out to be a valuable experience — spending more time with his family, including two kids, son Maliq, 14, and daughter Cyncere, 12. Maliq will be a freshman next year, and Cyncere a seventh grader.

What schools they’ll attend locally aren’t yet decided.

“It was tough at times, but ultimately it was a great experience,” Mann said. “I once heard someone say, ‘Every coach should have the opportunity to a take a year off.’ I would have to concur. You get to learn a lot about yourself and gain a different perspective, not just in basketball.

“See what else it is that you enjoy because basketball does take up a good amount of your time.”

Mann and Kampe haven’t had detailed discussions about what Mann’s specialty will be at Oakland, though he does have plenty of experience recruiting the state, even landing some big Detroit players when he was at Iowa State.

He also helped bring Flint’s Monte Morris to Iowa State.

“I’ll be able to help with everything,” Mann said. “Defensive toughness is where I would probably say I attempt to hang my hat.”

Oakland led the nation in scoring offense last season, but was 313th in scoring defense.

Twitter: @tonypaul1984