“A grandparent is a little bit parent, a little bit teacher, and a little bit best friend.”
Coronado Cays resident Myles Manning, a Coronado High School junior who plays varsity basketball, has a special bond with his paternal grandfather Richard. Grandpa, as Myles calls him, is so much more than just Myles’ grandparent; he’s Myles’ inspiration, both on and off the basketball court.
Richard Manning grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, where he was the third of six children. When he was in fifth grade, the Catholic school he attended had a basketball team. Richard’s older brother, who was in eighth grade at the time, wanted to play, and when it turned out that there weren’t enough players, he recruited his kid brother. Richard recalls how his brother asked, “Would you come and stand on the court because we only have four players? We don’t want to have to forfeit.”
Richard obliged, having no clue at the time how a simple invitation to join the older boys on the basketball court would shape not only his own future, but his grandson’s as well. As he helped make the team whole, Richard fell in love with the sport, and quickly discovered that he was actually skilled at it.
Playing basketball earned Richard a full scholarship to Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he met his future wife Marie. Together he and Marie proudly raised seven children, including Myles’ father Michael. Richard shares, “I was thinking about it, and none of it would have happened if my brother hadn’t said to me, ‘Would you come and stand on the court so we don’t have to forfeit. Isn’t that amazing?”
Richard graduated as a math teacher, and then continued his studies, earning a master’s degree in physical chemistry. While pursuing his master’s degree, Richard worked at Pittsburgh Hospital, where he was roused to tackle medical school next. “I came home, and said to my wife, ‘I think I’ll go to medical school,'” he recalls, making it seem as if that decision was just as effortless as deciding what he wanted for dinner.
Dr. Richard Manning, who’s now retired, spent his career working as a child psychiatrist, but his love of basketball always persisted. Residing in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia, Richard no longer plays basketball, but he still loves watching it, especially when he has the chance to watch Myles.
For two months every winter, Richard comes to Coronado. He teases that he flies out to Southern California to avoid the harsh winter weather back east, but the truth of the matter is he likes being in the stands to cheer for the only one of his twenty-two grandchildren who has had the same level of success playing basketball as he once had.
Myles, who has lived in Coronado his whole life, started playing organized basketball when he was in third grade. “I got serious about basketball when I was in fifth or sixth grade. That’s when I decided it was something I wanted to pursue,” he shares.
Both a shooting guard and a point guard, Myles is fully committed to basketball, and also participates in a number of clubs at CHS. He’s the Commissioner of Athletics for the school’s Associated Student Body (ASB), and along with the Commissioner of Spirit, leads the school’s pep rallies. Myles notes that besides playing basketball, he’s following in his grandfather’s footsteps because Richard too led the pep rallies when he was in high school. With their big smiles and congenial personalities, it’s easy to see how both generations of Mannings came into those roles.
A well rounded young man, Myles serves as president of the Leo Club, the high school division of Lions Clubs International, a service organization. He’s also blazing new trails, having recently auditioned for CoSA’s (Coronado’s School of the Arts) upcoming musical Cabaret, where he’s hoping to sing and dance. Myles plays the guitar and ukulele, and was recently crowned “Mr. Tiki” at Coronado High School’s talent contest after showcasing his musical skills.
As Myles approaches his senior year of high school, he’s starting to narrow down his college choices. Like his Grandpa, Myles’ scholastic achievements will likely take him far as he is already a top-notch student. “I would love to stay on the west coast,” he states. “My my top three [choices] are Stanford, USC, and UCLA; however, I’m also looking at a lot of the Ivy League schools: Harvard, Columbia, Penn, Yale, and Princeton. I’m also considering Cal Berkeley and UCSD.”
Myles, who’s leaning toward studying political science or communications, explains, “The plan is I would like to go to the best school I can possibly go to, and choose my school based on academics because this is my future. After that, I want to try to play basketball there, but academics definitely come first.”
While his plans don’t include becoming a child psychiatrist like Grandpa, Myles does take after Richard in terms of seeking cognitive and emotional fulfillment. “I love doing something that really challenges me mentally in terms of thinking and communicating, and I love working with people,” he says.
According to Richard, who’s happy to offer words of wisdom to Myles as he makes important decisions about his educational future, Myles no longer needs any pointers from him on the basketball court. “He’s a better player now than I ever was,” Richard remarks. Myles’ mom Nancy reminds Richard that Myles hasn’t outgrown his Grandpa’s sage basketball knowledge just yet, saying, “You still give him [Myles] advice! When he was feeling nervous, you told him what you used to do when you were nervous.”
Myles has relished the time he’s gotten to spend with Grandpa this basketball season, taking great comfort knowing his number one fan has been at every game. “That’s why I came out here,” Richard says, “to watch his whole season.” Richard admits that as he watches Myles, “I relive some of my earlier playing days too. When I see him make a three point shot, I think, ‘Boy! That corner shot – that’s the way I used to shoot.'”
Richard, who says he was good on defense, is also reminded of his glory days playing basketball as he watches his grandson on defense. “It stimulates me, and brings back a lot of memories,” he says of watching Myles on the court. “He’s a really good basketball player,” he says with a great deal of pride as he smiles at Myles and gives him an approving nod of the head.
Myles says that the majority of what he’s learned about basketball has come from his father, sharing, “My Dad has always reminded me to keep my head centered, and says as long as I remember that I’ve worked harder than anyone else on the court, then I should be just fine.”
Michael says that he’s passed down the “life lessons” his own father taught him, making Myles the beneficiary of two generations of advice. “I watched my Dad wake up every morning, and go to work to support seven kids, and then go back to the office after dinner. He worked eight to ten hours a day my entire life, and that’s exactly what I’ve done,” Michael says. Looking at Myles he continues, “I hope that he sees that if you want to be successful in life, it does require a strong work ethic. I picked it up from my Dad, and I’m hoping Myles picks it up from me in school and on the basketball court. That will be the catalyst to him doing well in life.”
While only time will tell where Myles goes to college, Grandpa is hopeful that Myles chooses a school close to him in Pennsylvania, giving the pair all school year to hang out together rather than just during basketball season. “I just love hearing about his life, and hearing how he’s doing in school,” Richard says. The proud grandfather will be joining Myles and his parents in the near future as they tour the Ivy League schools. If Richard has any say in the selection process, Myles will choose Penn. “I’d be down there all the time at the Palestra watching him play, and I’d have him out at the house. We’d probably live together,” Grandpa says. Pointing at Michael and Nancy, he adds, “Those two would have to move in too so they could come watch the games.”
While Richard would love for Myles to live with him at “The Big House,” as his home in Conshohocken is known, if Myles decides to go elsewhere that won’t stop Richard from cheering for his favorite player. “It doesn’t matter. Wherever he goes, I’ll either watch him on television, or I’ll come out and watch him play. I’m not going to miss out on that!”
Besides their shared love of basketball, Grandpa and Myles enjoy competing with one another, playing card games such as Casino, and making each other laugh. “When I was really little,” Myles says, “I used to call Grandpa ‘Silly Grandpa’ because of all of his jokes and antics. I’m seventeen years old now, and the same jokes and the same antics still make me laugh. It’s the funniest thing!”
Another aspect that unites Grandpa and Myles is their love of history. “I’ll learn something in history, and say, ‘Hey, Grandpa! Did you ever hear about how this happened during World War II?’ Obviously he’s already heard about it because he knows about every history fact on the planet, and then he’ll say, ‘Well, did you ever know about this,’ as he teaches me something new. It’s fun,” Myles remarks. Michael chimes in, “As a family, we’re always joking about how much the two of them have in common. They’re both very bright, good at math, and very good basketball players.” Nancy points out, “They’re also very good looking,” making everyone laugh.
While Grandpa and Myles are both disappointed that with the new month of March Grandpa’s visit to Coronado is coming to an end, the two of them are looking forward to March Madness, which brings with it a continuation of their competitive relationship and playful ribbing. Following March Madness is a Manning family tradition. Grandpa will be rooting for last year’s NCAA champions, the Villanova Wildcats, because the university is just a few miles from his home in Pennsylvania, while Myles will be pulling for UCLA. Richard shakes his head, and says of the Villanova Wildcats, “They’ll beat your butt! I hope Villanova and UCLA play each other now,” once again making everyone in the family laugh at the rivalry between grandfather and grandson. Myles counters, “You won it last year, Grandpa! You don’t need to win again.”
When Richard heads home, he and Myles will continue to stay in touch, even though Grandpa doesn’t utilize technology such as FaceTime that makes it easier to do so. “I try to keep my life as uncomplicated as possible. I don’t Facebook, but I’m way ahead of the curve because I do have a cell phone,” he says, pulling his rather outdated flip-phone out of his pocket as Myles shakes his head and laughs. Since his phone doesn’t have texting capability, Grandpa keeps in touch with Myles the old-fashioned way, by actually talking to him on the phone. Perhaps real communication is the secret to their special bond, or perhaps it’s their love of basketball. Whatever it is that ties Richard and Myles together, it’s evident that their affection for one another is utterly sincere, and that they’re so much more than simply grandfather and grandson; they’re kindred spirits and the best of friends.