MADISON, Wis. — By retiring at midseason at Wisconsin, Bo Ryan effectively allowed top assistant Greg Gard to have a three-month audition to prove that he could handle the head coaching job on a permanent basis.
In his first full day on the job on Wednesday, Gard didn't appear to be feeling any pressure. "Our main focus is how can we continue to move this team forward and improve," he said. "How can we get some of these younger guys to play a little older?"
The Badgers (7-5) struggled in the first few weeks of the season, losing more games than they did all of last season, when they went 36-4 and advanced to their second straight Final Four.
But this year's squad is less experienced. And the players appeared to be a little dazed after the game, even though Ryan had discussed retirement for months.
"I just waited for his direction and I just said, 'Hey, let me know what the plan is and what you need from me,' " Gard recounted.
Athletic director Barry Alvarez appointed Gard the interim coach. He plans to evaluate Gard's work at the end of the season about how the school will proceed.
Not that Gard is planning major changes. "Obviously our brand of basketball and our pillars of success are pretty well cemented and time-tested," said Gard, who has worked with Ryan for 20 years.