Ernie Manning wasn’t a star athlete while growing up in Tipton, but he certainly learned the intangibles to become a great high school football coach.
Manning learned what respect meant while playing for then-Tipton coach Don Royal, the brother of former Oklahoma quarterback and legendary Texas coach Darrell Royal.
He drew inspiration from his older brother Buck after he lost his leg in a bicycle-car accident but still played baseball on a prosthetic leg.
And Manning also learned the importance of community.
Those were all things he took with him in his coaching career, which resulted in a highly successful tenure at Lawton MacArthur as the head coach and an induction into the Oklahoma Coaches Association Hall of Fame last weekend.
Manning, who is now an assistant coach under his son Brett for the Highlanders, spoke with The Oklahoman about growing up in Tipton, his career and more.
I was scared to death of (Royal). He was a tough, rugged coach. Looking back, he was just a no-nonsense coach. Everybody just had a whole lot of respect for him and that went a long way. We didn’t dare not do what he asked us to do; that wasn’t even an option. Probably more than anything it’s just that attitude right there that I probably admired out of him.
(Buck) was a really good athlete, you just couldn’t foresee what would happen. He was just a stud on every Little League team that we ever played on. We went to Chandler Baseball Camp a couple times and he set the home run record there.
It was inspirational that he would continue trying and he had no excuse whatsoever. He never used that as an excuse. He did it for a couple years and then it wasn’t feasible after that.
I didn’t know anything else to do, to tell you the truth. There was no interest in anything else, so it was just natural. It was just natural for me to go in that direction (to coach).
I loved every minute of it (in Pampa, Texas). There were very few games that you didn’t have to play to win. The community of Pampa was kind of like Tipton. It was important to them to have a great football team and all sports. I really liked the competition there and I liked the challenge there that we faced.
Twelve years under Dennis Cavalier, I learned all aspects of what a program faces and how it should be run. That’s what I took. I don’t know if it was more from Texas or more from Dennis Cavalier.
When I came to MacArthur, I had seen a successful program initiated and that’s what I did. It’s kinda proven and I don’t take credit for it at all. It’s just a really neat way to do things.
There was no organized offseason, spring ball, nothing. Their discipline was lacking a little bit, and so I promised the hiring committee that I would bring discipline to this program and we would do things right and winning would not be emphasized at all, but doing things right would be emphasized.
What I did to fix it is that I initiated an offseason program, I went out to the community and got contributions to purchase some weights and mirrors. We did this every year and we built a year-round program. You have to do that to be successful and I wanted our players to be successful.
We had some players quit in my first year under these new guidelines and I felt bad about it. But I came in to instill a program and they weren’t used to the things that we wanted to do and they chose to leave the program or I had to dismiss some too. It was a very, very tough year. It was tough because I hurt that they couldn’t be a part of this, and at the same time those that did stay with us I appreciate their efforts and their commitment.
It was very rewarding to see the program work under my guidance. That third year there to go to the state finals just gave me confidence in what we were doing.
A lot of coaches know what to do, but the hard part is enforcing it. You’ve got to make tough decisions along the way and sometimes there’s damage. Sometimes kids miss out because you can’t have that crack in the armor.
Hey, I’m a lot better assistant coach than I am a head coach, I’ll tell you that. I’ll say what I think and that’s the good thing about our staff is that we pour out our opinions and when we leave we’re close and together. That’s a good way to be.
I’m glad that he has to handle all of the little, minor duties and details year round and I don’t. It has allowed me to stay in coaching longer because it kinda stressed me out and got me down. You just had no time whatsoever. It was constant and Brett is going through that now, but he’s young and he can handle that.
I think (football) gives the community something to be proud of and something to talk about. The feedback that I’ve had is that they want to see a product on the field that gives great effort and acts right and is respectful to the game. That is more important to the people I visit with than winning. When they see that, then they’re proud of MacArthur football.