Casey Manning, '73, '77 J.D.

Originally published in March 2010

Forty years ago, Casey Manning would have preferred the court to the bench, but now as a Circuit Court Judge for the state of South Carolina, he thoroughly enjoys his position on the bench in the courtroom.

Manning played basketball at Carolina for legendary coach Frank McGuire, earning his degree in political science in 1973 and returned to get his law degree in 1977.

In addition to working as a judge in Columbia, he has also served as the color analyst for Carolina basketball radio broadcasts for nearly two decades.

The Glory Years

Born and raised in Dillon, SC, Casey Manning came to the University of South Carolina in 1969. Although he was a member of the Gamecock basketball team, it was more than just athletics that brought him to Columbia. He realized what a great opportunity he had awaiting him at Carolina, and the University had what he was looking for in the field of social sciences.

“South Carolina was a good school, a good program, and you had (coach) Frank McGuire,” Manning says. “The University really sold me on itself. Clemson only had one political science course at the time, and if you came to Carolina, you could major in it.”

Manning wanted to study political science because he decided at a young age that he wanted to attend law school, so Carolina was the perfect fit.

The early 1970s rank among the best historically for Gamecock basketball as Manning was a part of three NCAA Tournament teams. Freshmen were not allowed to play on the varsity back then. Manning played with All-Americans John Roche, Tom Riker, Kevin Joyce and Alex English during his career, not to mention many other names synonymous with Carolina basketball.

“I was a sophomore when Roche, Tom Owens, John Ribock and Dennis Powell were all seniors,” Manning recalls. “When you look from beginning to end from high school to college to pros, I think the best player I played with was Alex English. I think he averaged almost a double-double the whole time he was here. He was a freshman when I was a senior.”

Getting to the NCAA Tournament is always difficult, but back then only 25 teams made the field, in contrast to the current 65 team field. Out of the three NCAA Tournament teams he played on, Manning says his first year on the varsity may have been the best team.

“I guess most would say that the 1971 ACC Tournament Championship Team was the best team I played on,” Manning says. “We beat North Carolina in the championship game. It was a bigger deal to get to the NCAA Tournament back then, because not as many teams made it. You didn’t have the TV coverage like you have now. There was no ESPN back then, but it was still a huge deal.”

As for the man in charge, Manning had the good fortune to play for hall of fame coach Frank McGuire.

“Coach McGuire was a great guy and a good recruiter,” Manning says. “He was smarter than people will ever give him credit for, and really a kind soul. Frank treated everybody the same. It didn’t matter if you were the bus driver or the shoe-shine guy, he looked out for everybody. He was really considerate.”

Manning was the only African-American player on the team until his senior year when Alex English came during his senior year. Even with all that was going on with the Civil Rights Movement and other movements during that time, Manning says he didn’t feel singled out.

“You had Vietnam, and you had everything going on at the same time,” Manning says about the era. “It was an interesting time. It was a social revolution across the country, not just in the South. Most other teams had one or two African-American players, so you were pretty much hated by other fans because you were part of the other team. It wasn’t just because you were black. It was because you were on the other team. So it was the same everywhere.”

Manning’s sense of humor emerges often in conversation.

“The only thing that was difficult at the time was in understanding all the Yankees that were from New York on the team. It was difficult understanding some of their lingo.”

Of all the exciting things that can happen being a student athlete, Manning says the academic side of things was still his favorite part of his time at Carolina.

“The best thing about being a student was going to class and interacting with classmates,” Manning says. “You had people here from New Jersey and New York and other states. Being a ball player in college is just like having a full time job. You do put in a lot of hours by the time you practice, travel, and play the games. In addition to that, you have to have time to decompress afterwards. I never thought it was particularly hard. It’s all about what you do with your down time.”

Enforcing the Law

After graduating in 1973, Manning took his first job with the law before he went to law school. His post-basketball career began with a job at the State Law Enforcement Division.

“I worked for SLED for one year as a field agent in Columbia,” Manning says. “I carried a gun and a badge. I wanted to work for a year before I went to law school. It gives you a different point of view because most people that go to law school don’t work as a cop first.”

After graduating from law school Manning’s next job wasn’t exactly what you would have expected.

“After law school I took the Bar exam, and I had to wait about three months to get the results, so I went to Arizona and worked as a desk clerk at the Bright Angel Hotel at the Grand Canyon,” Manning says. “After about two months I decided to go to Los Angeles for a couple of weeks because I have a brother who works there, and ended up staying for two years.”

While in L.A., he worked for a year as a private investigator with Steins and Steins Investigations. He came back to South Carolina in 1979 and opened a law office in his hometown of Dillon. Five years later he took a job with the state Attorney General’s Office as a prosecutor. After prosecuting cases all over South Carolina for the next five years he joined the firm of Walker, Morgan and Manning, and was later elected to the bench as a judge in 1994 where he’s been ever since.

“The best part of my job is that I don’t get phone calls at home,” Manning says in a way that’s humorous perhaps without intending to be so. “You don’t get calls on nights and weekends. Every day is different as civil court judge. The toughest part about being a judge is remaining patient. It really does try your patience. You get beat down. You can have twenty cases that don’t do a lot to you, and you can have that one case that just drains you.”

Back to Basketball, Minus the Hightops

Living in Columbia, Manning remained close to Carolina and the basketball program. This includes legendary Carolina radio broadcaster Bob Fulton. In 1994, Manning’s career would once again include basketball. Host Communications had recently acquired the rights to broadcast the University’s games and there was an opening for a color analyst for men’s basketball.

“Bob approached me about it and told me it would be a lot of fun,” Manning says. “If it wasn’t for Bob Fulton, I never would have taken the job. I had always been on friendly terms with Bob.”

Manning says his analyst duties weren’t easy at first, as he had to learn to make the short observations necessary for radio broadcasts. Manning had actually met Bob Fulton when he was 16 years old and had a lot of fun working with the ‘Voice of the Gamecocks.’

“The best thing about working with Bob was that he could discuss any subject,” Manning says. “He knew politics. He knew history. He was without a doubt the smartest broadcaster I ever met. He was very intellectual and also the kindest person. The companionship with somebody who could talk about anything was the most important and endearing thing about him. It wasn’t just about basketball.”

The two are still friends who speak to each other on a daily basis. Since then he has worked on broadcasts with Charlie MacAlexander, Mike Morgan and now, Andy Demetra.

“When Bob retired I considered stopping at the time, but I had a good relationship with (coach) Eddie Fogler and his staff, and of course the kids,” Manning explains. “So the thing that kept me going was just being around guys like Eddie Fogler and players like B.J. McKie and the other kids that followed. Now, they’re not quite like your kids, but you still enjoy watching them grow up, get married and have their own kids.”

Manning enjoys relationships with many of the Gamecocks players even after their playing days are long gone. Among his most memorable moments behind the microphone include the 1997 victory over Kentucky at Rupp Arena on Senior Day, and the 2010 win at home over the #1 ranked Wildcats.

“The 1997 Senior Day game at Kentucky, they had coach Rick Pitino there, and we had B.J. McKie, Melvin Watson and Larry Davis,” Manning recalls. “Even today, when you go to Rupp Arena, their people haven’t forgotten that. As for this year’s win against Kentucky, it’s rare that you can beat a number one team. You don’t get too many opportunities to do that. It was a big moment in our history. So maybe you have to put that one above the win at Kentucky as the most memorable.”

Being in Columbia, enjoying a membership in the Carolina Alumni Association and working with the men’s basketball team, Manning obviously still has a very strong connection to his alma mater. He is the father of three children; Charlotte, who is 30, Casey, Jr., who is 28, and Morgan who is 19. Ironically, Casey, Jr. was a college classmate at Syracuse with his current broadcast partner Andy Demetra.

While calling basketball games is a lot of fun, it’s Manning’s job as a judge that gives him the most satisfaction.

“There’s no comparison to being on the bench,” Manning says. “The opportunity to do what you really think is the right thing to do is great. It’s not just an individual right, it’s a collective thing that you learn over the years. It’s the ability to do what’s fair and just.”