During the offseason Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan announced that this would be his final season at the helm, only to go back on those comments shortly thereafter.
[RELATED: Bo didn’t quit on Wisconsin]
And after much uncertainty regarding Ryan’s future at Wisconsin, he announced following the team’s win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Tuesday night that he will retire effective immediately.
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) December 16, 2015
Associate head coach Greg Gard, who has been an assistant on Ryan’s staffs at three different stops since 1993 (Wisconsin-Platteville, Milwaukee and Wisconsin), will be interim head coach until season’s end. This move gives Gard the opportunity to essentially interview for the full-time position on the job, working with a team led by guard Bronson Koenig and forward Nigel Hayes.
[PODCAST: What were Ryan’s motives?]
“After months of conversation with (Wisconsin athletic director) Barry Alvarez and his administrative staff, as well as my wife, Kelly, I have decided that now is the right time to step down from the head coaching position here at Wisconsin,” Ryan said.
“This was a decision months in the making. I brought this up to Barry back in April. He advised me to take some time to think it over and I appreciated that. But in recent weeks, I have come to the conclusion that now is the right time for me to retire and for Greg Gard to have the opportunity to coach the team for the remainder of the season. I discussed this with Barry and I appreciate him giving me the space to make this decision.”
During the press conference both Ryan and Alvarez stated that the end of the semester was viewed as a good time to make the transition, with Tuesday’s game being the Badgers’ last before finals. Wisconsin now has a week before their next game, December 23 against Green Bay, and they’ll open Big Ten play December 29 against a Purdue team that has proven to be one of the nation’s best to this point in the season.
Ryan leaves Madison as the program’s all-time wins leader with 364 victories, and that is just one of his many accomplishments while at the helm.
In 14-plus seasons at Wisconsin, Ryan led the Badgers to two Final Fours, 14 NCAA tournament appearances and seven Big Ten titles. During Ryan’s tenure the Badgers never finished worse than fourth in the Big Ten in any season. Given their early struggles this season, having lost three home games already, and the strength of the Big Ten that streak was viewed to be in jeopardy.
The timing of the move gives Gard the opportunity to run the program in hopes of doing enough to have the interim tag removed. But there’s a lot of work to be done, and not just with regards to this current team. Wisconsin doesn’t have a commitment in the Class of 2016, and recruiting as an interim coach can be tough. The good news here is that the Badgers don’t have a scholarship senior on the roster, with six of their scholarship players being freshmen.
This makes the 2017 class that much more important, with guard Kobe King being their lone commitment at this time. Will it be Gard filling those scholarships, or will it be another coach? A lot of that depends upon the next four months, with Gard having the opportunity to show Alvarez that he’s the man for the job.