Ladies and gentlemen, you have been presented with “evidence” that has attempted to show why Greg Gard should be removed as head coach of the Wisconsin basketball team. The prosecution has attempted to dazzle you with “poor statistics” and lackluster results.
I will show you why, with a few statistics of my own, why Greg Gard should remain as the head coach of our beloved Badgers.
Greg Gard’s recent success
While Wisconsin may not have made the NCAA tournament this season, over the past four years they have won two Big Ten regular season championships. Coach Gard was named the Big Ten “Coach of the Year”.
The prosecution has compared Coach Gard to the legendary Bo Ryan. While I am in no way attempting to besmirch the accomplishments of the great Ryan, let’s put this comparison into focus by using Coach Ryan’s first eight seasons as the parameter for these comparisons.
Coach Ryan won three Big Ten regular season titles in his first eight years, compared to the two that Coach Gard has. Each coach has had one of their players named the Big Ten Player of the Year.
Coach Ryan did make the tournament every year as a head coach, which is very impressive. Yet he only made two “Sweet 16” in this time span. While Coach Gard’s teams have missed out on the Big Dance two times, he has made the same number of “Sweet 16” as Ryan.
Coach Ryan’s record at Wisconsin was impeccable. But what good are wins in the regular season if they do not translate to success in the post-season?
Recruiting difficulties under Greg Gard
The prosecutor has cited the poor recruiting of Greg Gard as a reason for his dismissal. But as I will clearly illustrate, Wisconsin basketball has been plagued with poor recruiting throughout its history. These difficulties existed well before Greg Gard became the head coach.
The venerable Bo Ryan, during his first eight years as head coach, had an average ranking of 93rd in recruiting classes.
Compare that to Greg Gard’s first eight seasons, which came in with a national ranking of 65th.
So clearly, Wisconsin’s woes in recruiting existed long before Greg Gard became the head coach.
The disappointing 2022-23 season
After the impressive beginning of this year’s campaign, to say that the conclusion was disappointing would be an understatement of epic proportion. It’s very easy to point the finger at someone and blame them for all that is wrong with the program.
To be sure, Greg Gard does shoulder some of the responsibility for the collapse. But he is far from the only reason for the dismal end to a once-promising season.
The prosecution brought up poor foul shooting and rebounding as a result of poor coaching. Let’s once again compare Gard’s teams to Ryan’s squads in the first seven seasons.
Before this season began, Gard-coached teams averaged making 70.3% of their free throws. For the first seven years under Ryan’s direction, the Badgers hit 70.0% of their foul shots.
While this year’s 67.1% is sub-par, foul shooting is cyclical in nature. This is more of an aberration than a trend.
Rebounding is a very similar situation. Under the direction of Bo Ryan, Wisconsin’s teams averaged 34.2 rebounds per game. Gard’s squads have averaged 33.9 RPG.
The 31.2 boards a contest, while disappointing, is not the norm.
Finally, the opposing side cited a lack of motivation and urgency in crucial games. Much is said about the halftime deficits that Wisconsin found itself in.
However, they did not lose all of those contests. In quite a few, Greg Gard’s halftime adjustments enabled the Badgers to make critical strategic changes in order to win the game.
Finally, while this isn’t perhaps a ringing endorsement for his continuation as head coach, the extension that Greg Gard signed last summer increases his buyout to $12 million for the next three seasons.
The situation at Wisconsin would have to deteriorate much more significantly than failing to make the NCAA tournament one season in order to justify that kind of expenditure.
Was this season a disappointment? Absolutely. Did Greg Gard have some responsibility for this disappointment? Absolutely. Was Greg Gard the sole reason for the season’s failures? Absolutely not.
The defense rests.