MADISON, Wis. – Bo Ryan, who established the Wisconsin men’s basketball program as a national power and led the team to the national title game in April, has decided to step down after the 2015-16 season, which will be his 15th as Badgers coach.
Ryan, 67, issued the following statement Monday through the University of Wisconsin Athletic Department:
“Back in the spring, in the days after the national championship game, [Wisconsin athletic director] Barry Alvarez and I discussed the possibility of me retiring. I’ve always been told that 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.
“I’ve decided to coach one more season with the hope that my longtime assistant Greg Gard eventually becomes the head coach at Wisconsin. I am looking forward to another year with our program, including our players, my terrific assistant coaches, our office staff and everyone who supports Wisconsin basketball here in Madison, around the state and across the country.”
Ryan, a native of Chester, Pa., has compiled a 357-125 record at Wisconsin and a record of 740-228 in 31 seasons overall.
Wisconsin won the Big Ten regular-season and tournament titles last season and reached the Final Four for the second consecutive season. The Badgers finished 36-4 after losing 68-63 to Duke in the title game in Indianapolis.
The Big Ten regular-season title was the program’s fourth under Ryan. Wisconsin made seven appearances in the first 63 years of the NCAA tournament, but under Ryan the Badgers have secured 14 NCAA berths in 14 seasons and advanced to the Sweet 16 seven times.
Wisconsin lost to Kentucky 74-73 in the 2014 semifinals in Arlington, Texas. The Badgers avenged that loss in the national semifinals in April in Indianapolis by taking down the unbeaten Wildcats 71-64.
After serving as a Badgers assistant under coach Bill Cofield from 1976 to ’84, Ryan guided Wisconsin-Platteville to four NCAA Division III national titles in 15 seasons and compiled a 30-27 record in two seasons at Wisconsin-Milwaukee before being named Badgers coach in 2001 by former athletic director Pat Richter.
Although it is too early to identify candidates from other schools, a source close to the program labeled Gard as a legitimate option.
Gard has been an assistant under Ryan since 1993 — at Platteville and then at Milwaukee — before coming to Wisconsin in 2001. He was promoted to associate head coach in July 2008.
Ryan has touted Gard’s coaching acumen and has said he is ready to run a program.
“Greg knows why we do drills the way we do them,” Ryan said in 2014. “Why we do things in a game the way we do them. He understands the personalities and the interactions of the players. Greg’s a guy that knows the teams in the league, works extremely hard at scheduling, which is a very difficult job. Scouting reports. He just does it all.”
Brian Butch, a first-team All-Big Ten pick as a senior center at Wisconsin in 2008, raved about his days under Ryan. “Coach has mellowed out a whole bunch,” Butch said while attending the annual Legends of Wisconsin Golf Classic Monday at University Ridge in Verona. “I don’t think he is able to stop and smell the roses but I think he is able to give different things to some of the assistants a little bit more.
“But you don’t want to not do what he says to do. He is still firm about this is the way we’re going to run things. And that’s how you’re going to have success.
“The one thing about coach is that he has won everywhere he has been. You have no reason not to trust him because that is what he has done is win.”