After spending four years as a player on the men's basketball team at North Carolina, Jackie Manuel is taking his talents to the women's team.
The 2005 national champion has returned to Chapel Hill to help coach the women’s basketball team at the start of the upcoming season. Manuel played for the Tar Heels from 2002-2005, and came back to North Carolina to be the director of player personnel, development and recruiting operations for the women’s program.
“When you love a place so much and have the opportunity to come back, it feels surreal,” Manuel said.
After serving as the assistant strength and conditioning coach on the men’s basketball staff in Chapel Hill during the 2011-2012 season, Manuel joined the UNC-Greensboro staff, where he spent four years as an assistant coach. He then moved on to be an assistant at Valparaiso for one year and UNC-Wilmington for another three years.
Having only coached men’s teams until now, he is eager to learn the women’s side of the game.
UNC women's basketball head coach Courtney Banghart explained how Manuel’s humble character and experience coaching at multiple stops after his playing days set him apart from the other candidates. After many phone calls with Manuel, Banghart was confident in selecting him for the job.
“I hire with impact in mind," Banghart said. "With Jackie being a former player, national champion and an experienced coach at various institutions, he will certainly make an impact on the team."
Within the first week of practice this year, his new players immediately noticed his positive energy.
“He has the championship vibe," redshirt junior Jaelynn Murray said. "You can just feel his energy. It shakes the whole room."
On the second day of practice, Banghart announced that Murray was cleared to play again after a long recovery from a torn ACL last season. When she finally stepped back onto the court, Manuel shouted words of encouragement as the team clapped.
“The fact that he barely knows me and he was that excited for my accomplishments shows a lot about his character," Murray said. "It made me so excited to have him on the staff."
During his college career, Manuel earned All-ACC Defensive honors in his junior and senior seasons. He'll now work as a coach to strengthen the team’s defense, a loose end that Banghart is looking to tighten up from last season after the Tar Heels ranked No. 205 in the country in field goal percentage defense.
He will also focus on organizing a player development strategy that aligns the skills of the individual players with the team’s growth.
Murray also pointed out that because he has played in the same North Carolina jersey, the players can develop a deeper connection with their new coach from similar past experiences.
“I'm at a point right now where I want to learn as much as I can," Manuel said. "I’m curious about how I can help our women be better and make a positive impact on the team."