Wisconsin Basketball: Barry Alvarez Should Allow Bo Ryan To Choose Next Coach


Wisconsin basketball former coach Bo Ryan should be able to pick the next coach

Bo Ryan shocked the college basketball world last week by announcing his retirement following Wisconsin’s win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. After Ryan broke the news, Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez spoke to the media and made it very clear that Greg Gard would step in to coach the team, strictly on an interim basis.

READ ALSO: Top Candidates to Replace Bo Ryan

Coming off consecutive trips to the Final Four, Ryan said in June the 2015-16 Wisconsin basketball season would be his last and wanted his successor to be Gard, his long-time assistant.

Alvarez struck down the idea that Gard would be automatically inserted as the new head coach because he wanted to conduct his own national search. This caused Ryan to backtrack and said he was uncertain regarding his future.

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  • If Ryan did not announce his retirement midseason, there is no guarantee that Gard would have gotten his opportunity, as Alvarez would have given a look at coaches outside of the program. Stepping down after the first semester backed Alvarez into a corner, knowing there is nobody else that would be able coach the team for the remainder of the season.

    Retiring shortly prior to the season would have been a viable option as well, a tactic legendary coaches Dean Smith and Jim Calhoun performed. The reason this did not happen with Wisconsin was because Gard’s father, Glen, had been dealing with terminal brain cancer. It would have been unfair to put Gard in position to take over a rebuilding team coming off back-to-back Final Fours while also focusing on the health of his father, who passed away in late October.

    Ryan wanted to be loyal to his guy, who is in his 23rd season as Ryan’s assistant. Gard traveled with Ryan during stints at UW-Platteville, UW-Milwaukee and Wisconsin.

    With the Badgers from 2001 to the present, Ryan has accumulated some incredible statistics. Ryan guided Wisconsin to a 364-130 overall record, including 172-68 in Big Ten play. Wisconsin has had seven Big Ten championships, never finishing worse than fourth in the final conference standings under Ryan, who also has four Big Ten Coach of the Year awards.

    Dec 15, 2015; Madison, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers head coach Bo Ryan announces his retirement as head coach effective immediately during the post-game news conference at the Kohl Center. Wisconsin defeated Texas A&M CC Islander 64-49. Mandatory Credit: Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

    Since 1947-2001, Wisconsin made the NCAA tournament five times, and the Badgers have made the tournament in all 14 seasons since Ryan took over.

    So who has a better idea who is the best replacement for the top coach in program history than the man himself? Why not bring in a guy who has been there from the beginning of the Bo Ryan era? Gard is his own man and has his own ideas, but the transition will be much smoother than looking for a coach from outside of the program, which is what Alvarez intends to do.

    But how confident would Wisconsin fans be with Alvarez hiring a new head coach from the outside? He conducted his national search when the Wisconsin football program needed to fill a coaching vacancy following the 2012 season and selected Utah State’s Gary Andersen, who set the program back and left for Oregon State after two seasons.

    Instead of staying within the program or hiring somebody with Wisconsin ties, Alvarez went off the board with Andersen, who did not have any prior coaching experience in the Midwest and never understood the University’s admissions policies. Fortunately, Wisconsin was bailed out by Paul Chryst‘s decision to leave Pittsburgh and return to the Wisconsin football program.

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    Alvarez looks rather hypocritical in his handling of this Wisconsin basketball situation. When he announced his retirement as the Wisconsin football coach following the 2005 season, Alvarez picked his guy without conducting a national search. He was also the athletic director at the time, but he knew what was best for the program because of his role as the football coach for 16 seasons.

    Alvarez chose defensive coordinator Bret Bielema, who had been with the Badgers for two seasons, to replace him. Bielema led Wisconsin to three Big Ten titles and three Rose Bowl appearances before leaving for Arkansas.

    If Alvarez can promote Bielema as the head man after two seasons with the program, why can’t Ryan choose Gard after 14 years in Madison?

    Next: Get To Know Greg Gard

    Just like Ryan did, Alvarez put his team on the map, and he made the decision on his replacement. With what Ryan has accomplished with the Badgers, he deserves the opportunity to do the same, putting his finishing touch on Wisconsin basketball.