Wisconsin men’s head basketball coach Bo Ryan announced his retirement on Tuesday, effective immediately. ESPN reports that Ryan’s top assistant Greg Gard will take over on an interim basis for the remainder of the season. Ryan, 67, will finish his 15-season career in Madison as the winningest coach in program history, with 364 wins. Gard will assume the position in what was his 23rd as Ryan’s assistant, which included stints at Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Wisconsin-Platteville.
A native of Chester, Pennsylvania, Bo Ryan led the Badgers to the NCAA Tournament every year of his tenure. That 14-year streak is the fourth most among active head coaches behind a who’s who of collegiate royalty. Only Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (20), Tom Izzo of Michigan State (18), and Gonzaga’s Mark Few (16) have taken their respective schools to the tournament in more consecutive years than Ryan. He made the announcement after the team’s win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Tuesday night, prompting a slew of reactions on social media, including one of the stars from last year’s team, Sam Dekker, and a tribute video from the official Wisconsin Basketball Twitter page.
This is tough to watch..Thank you Coach Ryan for molding me into a young man. Wish I could argue with you one more time. All love to Pops!!
— Sam Dekker (@dekker) December 16, 2015
— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) December 16, 2015
In his press conference, Bo Ryan revealed that he initially wanted to step down following last season, but was advised by athletic director Barry Alvarez to take some time to think it over. At the same time, Greg Gard was flying around the country trying to find the best doctors for his father, who was suffering from cancer. Ultimately, Alvarez and Ryan agreed that Ryan would coach for one more semester to ensure that Gard was ready and fully-equipped to handle the transition. The unranked Badgers are 7-5 through the first 12 games of the season. They’re off until next Wednesday when they face Green Bay before opening their Big Ten schedule at home against Purdue on December 29.
Bo Ryan transformed a mediocre program into a consistent powerhouse and a contender. They have not won a National Championship since 1941, but Wisconsin went 47 years from 1947-94 without a single NCAA Tournament appearance. To put that in perspective, only Harvard, Yale, Tennessee Tech, Bowling Green, and Columbia have experienced longer droughts of missing out on March Madness.
The last two seasons under Bo Ryan were perhaps the greatest run in school history, as Wisconsin reached the Final Four in back-to-back years. The Badgers had just two Final Four appearances in program history before that. Ryan led Wisconsin to a school-record 36 wins a year ago, which ultimately ended in a five-point loss to Duke in the National Championship. The previous year ended at the hands of Kentucky in the national semi-final. Ryan and company were able to avenge that loss a year later in the win that propelled them to the Final.
A four-time Big Ten Coach of the Year, Ryan owns four regular-season conference championships, three Big Ten Tournament championships, and four more Division III titles while coaching at Wisconsin-Platteville. He took over the Wisconsin job in 2001 after then-interim coach Brad Soderberg was not offered the position after he took over for Dick Bennett, who retired just two games into the 2000-01 season.
Greg Gard will certainly hope for a better fate than that of Soderberg, but ESPN speculates that he’ll have competition at season’s end. Gard, 44, could contend with Northern Iowa head coach Ben Jacobson, Valparaiso’s Bryce Drew, and Virginia head coach Tony Bennett. Tony is Dick’s son, who was an assistant for both his father and Bo Ryan in Madison before being named head coach at Washington State.
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