Bo Ryan announced Monday that he would coach one more season at Wisconsin before retiring. A surprise to the rest of the country, it apparently was not a bombshell in Madison, where rumors had swirled since April that the program’s most successful basketball coach might be hanging up his whistle.
The 67-year-old Ryan is 357-125 in his 14 seasons at Wisconsin. He’s won four Big Ten regular season titles and never finished worse than tied for fourth in the conference. He’s also coming off his two most successful seasons, reaching back-to-back Finals. The Badgers lost to UK in the 2014 Final Four, of course, then avenged that loss with a win over the previously undefeated Cats in 2015 before losing to Duke in the national title game.
Truth be told, Ryan has always been an old-school coach with a cantankerous streak. He doesn’t mind complaining, especially when it comes to officiating, as he proved at the 2015 Final Four. After the 68-63 loss to Duke, Ryan made a comment about how “we don’t do rent-a-player” when the Devils had just won with three one-and-dones (Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow) while also griping that the title game had “more body contact than any game we played all year.”
Back in 2012, Ryan won few friends with his hard-line stance in the much-publicized transfer of Jarrod Uthoff, who left Madison after being redshirted as a freshman. Originally, Ryan banned Uthoff from transferring to any school in the Big 10, the ACC, Florida, Marquette and Iowa State. Uthoff ended up going to Iowa, where he was forced to pay his own way for one year thanks to Ryan’s refusal to back down.
On the floor, Ryan proved he could coach. He won four national Division III titles at Plattesville before going to UW-Milwaukee for two seasons and then on to Wisconsin. His Badger teams played disciplined, fundamental, consistent basketball. He developed his talent. In last Thursday’s NBA Draft, Frank Kaminsky was taken by Charlotte with the No. 9 overall pick while Houston grabbed Sam Dekker with the 18th pick.
With Ryan losing five of his top seven players from last year, there was speculation the coach might hang it up. He put his house in Madison for sale. He said it was to downsize. He admitted Monday he considered retiring after the Final Four, but Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez insisted he take time to think it over. Having done that, Ryan decided on one more year.
After that, Ryan said he hopes Alvarez will promote assistant Greg Gard, who has been with Ryan since 1993, all the way back to the Platteville days. Gard was promoted to Associate Head Coach in 2008. Ryan says Gard has one of the best minds in college basketball. If he gets the job, Gard will be stepping into some pretty big shoes.
Photo of Bo Ryan and John Calipari at this year’s Final Four by AP