Choosing to actually start the season and then see it’s going nowhere put Bo Ryan in an uncomfortable situation of retiring from college basketball and his seat as the Wisconsin head coach in the midst of a rebuilding phase he may have not anticipated to be so difficult.
At the end of all of this and once the shock wears off, everyone will simply be praising Ryan for his fantastic career with the Badgers, that included two Final Fours on the final two years at the job, which included making the championship game last season only to lose against Duke and probably a lot of help from the officials. Wisconsin won four regular season Big Ten titles during Ryan’s 15 years at the gig and three Big Ten tournaments. He made the NCAA tournament every season, and never finished without a winning record in conference play.
And then comes this season, trying to bounce back from Frank Kaminsky, the best player in college basketball last season, and Sam Dekker, leaving to the NBA. It’s just not done at Madison overnight, not when you’re not going for the one-and-done players, who probably wouldn’t have gone to Wisconsin anyway. Ryan probably wanted to retire earlier before moving aside and letting Greg Gard take over as the interim head coach, which was the plan all along.
Some players say something changed in Ryan recently, with suddenly the toll all of the years he’s been coaching showing in his eyes and health. Ryan has been coaching college basketball since 1984, and was an assistant for almost a decade before that. He’ll be turning 68 in a few days. Pressure from home for him to retire already took its time to sink in, but eventually it worked, although the timing comes off as very surprising, unlike if it would have happened after Wisconsin lost to Duke, and there was plenty of time in between.
Gard doesn’t feel too much pressure from being put in a sort of “test” season. He has always worked under one-year contracts, and has been with Ryan, as an assistant for 23 years, even before Ryan became the head coach of the Badgers. He’s 45, and will now be evaluated by Barry Alvarez, who Ryan has been conversing with about the retirement for a number of months. Ryan initially said he’ll step down after the season, but turns out another season of this was just too much for him, knowing he wasn’t going to be competing for a national championship anyway.