Greg Gard’s job security
Let’s be clear: Greg Gard is not on the hot seat as things stand today. That being said, there are many Wisconsin fans who think he should be, though I am not one of them.
His critics’ main arguments largely center on his recent struggles on the recruiting trail and the disappointing outcome of the 2017-18 season, when the Badgers failed to make the NCAA Tournament in 20 years. There is also the matter of the lack of expected development from players on the roster.
There is no doubt that the recruiting efforts of this staff over the last two recruiting cycles have not been stellar, and they deserve some heat for that. They have got to hit on some Plan A targets in 2020 and inject this program with more talent.
Gard’s lack of success in developing players is also a bit worrisome. Bo Ryan rarely got high-profile recruits when he led the program, but he was always able to overcome that because so many of his guys took big jumps after their first couple of years in the program- the “Junior Jump”, if you will.
Make no mistake, Gard was a major contributor to that successful talent development as an assistant. Since he took over the program, however, we have not seen some players show much, if any, improvement. That 2015 recruiting class is the best example of this, as Charlie Thomas, Alex Illikainen, and the now-departed Andy Van Vliet did not at all pan out as expected, though Khalil Iverson and Brevin Pritzl have at least become solid players for Wisconsin.
The big question is if these players are anomalies, or if their struggles are indicative of a greater problem with this staff. The jury is still out, but the answer will become apparent soon enough based on the team’s performance on the court: an inability to develop talent will manifest itself in losses.
There is also the matter of the disaster that was the 2017-18 season. However, I am going to blame that in large part on the injuries that devastated Gard’s backcourt, which only made the going even more difficult for a team replacing four starters from a group that nearly reached the Elite Eight the year before. The fans who criticize Gard tend to forget the success he had in his first season and a half as head coach, as well as how much better the injury-ravaged Badgers looked by the end of last season.
With a preseason All-American and a large amount of talent and experience on the rest of the roster, it is reasonable for Wisconsin fans to expect, at a minimum, a trip back to the Big Dance. As long as the Badgers are healthy, there is not much of an excuse for a failure to achieve that goal. If Gard cannot get them there, that is the point where his seat gets warm.