Bo Ryan’s legendary career as the men’s basketball coach at Wisconsin is nearly done.
On Monday, Ryan put out a statement announcing that he will coach the Badgers for one more season with the hope that his longtime assistant, Greg Gard, will take over the program the following year.
“Back in the spring, in the days after the national championship game, (UW Director of Athletics) Barry Alvarez and I discussed the possibility of me retiring,” Ryan said. “I’ve always been told tht is not a decision to make right after a season is completed. Barry Thankfully encouraged me to take some time to think about it and I have done that. I considered retiring this summer or coaching one more season.”
Ryan is coming off the two best seasons in his tenure with the Badgers, as Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker and company led the Badgers to back-to-back Final Fours, including an appearance in the 2015 national title game. With five of the top seven players from last year’s team gone to either graduation or the NBA, the Badgers will be in a bit of a rebuilding mode this season.
But Ryan never dealt with a true rebuilding season in his tenure. He’s been the head coach in Madison since 2001 and he’s never finished worse than tied for fourth in the conference. He’s turned the Badgers into a bonafide Big Ten powerhouse, a team that was widely considered one of the best in the country the last two years. And he did all that while developing the kind of culture and development, both on and off the court, that makes the sport of college basketball special.
Bo never needed to recruit the best player in the country. He needed the guys that fit into his system and bought into the idea that hard work and patience will turn them into their best selves.
It will be interesting to see whether Gard, if he is the man tasked with taking over for Ryan, will be able to continue the growth of the program.
What will be more interesting, however, is whether or not Ryan will get consideration for the Hall of Fame. His sustained excellence at Wisconsin is as impressive as any coaching job since the turn of the century, save for maybe Bill Self’s run of 11 consecutive Big 12 titles.
But that may not even be the most impressive stretch of Ryan’s coaching career. While at Division III Wisconsin-Platteville, Ryan won three national titles in five seasons and four total in a nine-year stretch. In his last twelve seasons with Platteville, he won eight league regular season titles, including his last five years with the program. He never lost more than five games in a season during those last 12 seasons at Platteville, and in those five straight years where his team won a league title, they lost eight games total, just four games in conference play and finished undefeated in two years.
For those that don’t know much about Division III basketball, the WCIAC — the league Platteville plays in — is equivalent to the ACC. It’s the arguably best conference in the country every year, and Ryan absolutely dominated it.
There are currently six active head coaches in the Hall of Fame — Jim Boeheim, Larry Brown, John Calipari, Roy Williams, Mike Krzyzewski and Rick Pitino; Chris Mullin is a Hall of Famer as a player.
Ryan may not have the same name cache as those six, but he’s every bit as good of a basketball coach.
If I had a vote, he’d get it.