A look at the differences between Wisconsin basketball coaches Greg Gard and Bo Ryan
When Bo Ryan announced his sudden retirement as the Wisconsin basketball coach on Dec. 15, he gave way to his top assistant Greg Gard, who had coached under Ryan for 23 years during stints at UW-Platteville, UW-Milwaukee and Wisconsin.
After spending such a long time watching Ryan teach basketball and learn his philosophies, it made sense to think there would be few changes to the product on the court with Gard taking over. However, that has not been the case three games into the Greg Gard Era.
Gard has guided Wisconsin to a 2-1 record with home wins against UW-Green Bay and Rutgers with a home loss to Purdue. In his first few games, Gard has proven to be his own man with his own ideas on how to operate the Wisconsin basketball team.
Now that Gard is not answering to Ryan, he has done things that Ryan rarely or never did in his final half-season as the head coach. Gard has not shocked Wisconsin basketball fans with a zone defense to begin his tenure or anything that extreme yet, but we have seen a few notable differences three games in.
Back in the Swing
One of the staples of Bo Ryan’s Wisconsin basketball team was the swing offense. Ryan used it in Platteville, Milwaukee and with Wisconsin for many years. The Badgers used the swing less and less in recent seasons and it has been pretty much wiped from the game plan in Ryan’s final few years. The reasons for the absence of the swing are unclear, but with the talent Wisconsin had with stars like Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker over the last two seasons, the swing was no longer essential.
Instead of running the swing, the game plan was altered to get the ball in the hands of the play makers as often as possible. The talent that Wisconsin had in the past two seasons has never been better, and the Badgers took advantage of it with consecutive Final Four appearances.
Five of Wisconsin’s top seven scorers from last season are no longer on the team, so this should have been looked at as a rebuilding year for the Badgers. It would be interesting to hear the reasoning as to why Ryan did not reincorporate the swing offense this season because this would be the perfect team to resurrect this style of offense with.
Wisconsin had its problems under Ryan this season, especially on the offensive end, which featured a lot of standing around and waiting for Nigel Hayes or Bronson Koenig to make a play. The Badgers have one of the youngest teams in college basketball, and the swing provides more structure and creates more movement to an offense that became stagnant at times.
Eight days after Ryan stepped down following an ugly home victory over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, the swing offense returned to Wisconsin in Gard’s first game as the interim head coach against Green Bay. Against the Phoenix, Wisconsin played its best first half of the year offensively, scoring 48 of its 84 points before halftime.
It has only been three games, but the Badgers are playing much better on offense. Prior to Gard’s debut, Wisconsin had a 41.2 field-goal percentage, averaged 69.4 points and 11.8 assists per game. Since then, the Badgers have shot 47.1 percent, averaged 72.7 points and 12.7 assists per game.