In typical fashion, a Bo Ryan press conference has to have a story included.
Making his first public comments since announcing the 2015-16 season would be his last as a college head coach, the first words that came out of Ryan’s mouth was a conversation that he had with former Michigan State Head Coach Jud Heathcote (1979-1995) earlier in the day Tuesday.
The two shared stories with one another for about 40 minutes but Heathcote wanted to make sure that Ryan, 67, would have something to do when he does retire in roughly eight months.
“He asked if I had things in mind that I’m going to do with myself and he said for him that golf saved him and now he can’t golf, Ryan said.” “I’m like are you thinking about going back to coaching then? He said no.”
Speculation on when Ryan would retire from Wisconsin as the men's head basketball coach has been going on for years. Rumors started to swirl on Sunday night that he may have to retire due to health reasons. While the retirement part was accurate, he poked fun at the “health reasons” by walking slowly toward the media using a cane.
"It was just a culmination and for all those people who said something about my health that’s why I brought the cane,” Ryan said with a smile. “It isn’t a boom decision. I’ve talked to a lot of the older coaches. You know what I’m getting the most of, ‘you did it your way.’ How many coaches get to do it this way and not be forced out or asked out?”Ryan did address the thoughts of possibility of retiring at the end of this past season following the Badgers’ runner-up finish in the national championship game but figured that he had enough left in him to coach another season with a roster full of young, raw talent. And while he still has the energy to coach and teach, dealing with the year-long demands of the job can be a burden.
“(UW Athletic Director Barry) Alvarez agrees that the way basketball is now, it is 12 months and it is a lot different compared to when he coached and it is a lot different than for most of the time I coached,” Ryan said. “It is not because of the hours are all that but it is so consuming now with your time with camps and with speaking...even if I’m not coaching I will still be a Badger I still will be doing things for Wisconsin if they will have me.”
In the statement released Monday, Ryan made it clear that he would like associate head coach Greg Gard to succeed him. Gard has been Ryan’s assistant for more than two decades at three different schools and his associate head coach since July 2008. Alvarez has said Gard will be considered for the job when it’s posted following the conclusion of the 2015-16 season but that other candidates will likely be interviewed.“It has happened in other places and there have been programs that have been very successful; that is one other thing Heathcote mentioned that Tom Izzo got the job,” Ryan said. “Greg has hung in there. The idea that he’s not afraid of challenges, this is a big challenge for him to be able to stay as long as he has and for him to have the opportunity to be the next head coach, why not? It happens in every other profession out there and it is not something that is debatable right now.” Since the announcement, some fans have questioned Ryan’s timeline. “People do that a lot and by saying a year it doesn’t force something to happen now where there is no preparation,” Ryan said. One counter argument is that because there is no coach set to take over for Ryan, recruiting for the next year will be challenging. Fortunately for Wisconsin, the Badgers are expected to only have one scholarship available to give out for the 2016 recruiting class. “We only have one scholarship so if there was a time that obviously went into my thinking,” said Ryan. “We are recruiting 2017-18 graduating class. Wisconsin isn’t changing. People come here (and) they like the institution, they like what it represents, or they like the environment ... Well if you like Wisconsin then you are going to like the coaching staff, and you’re going to like what we do no matter who’s here. We want people to come to Wisconsin for Wisconsin. I’ve never said to anybody at any time the reason that young man came to Wisconsin was only because of me. Never said that or hinted at that.” With the important July evaluations starting to begin, Ryan will be out on the road like he has in the past to see who can help Wisconsin take the next step as a program. “I plan on being out there in July and watching people,” he said. “I passed my (compliance) test. I got one wrong and I was disappointed about that.” While he didn’t say what answer he got wrong, Ryan admitted, in typical fashion, that he is challenging the answer. “It is one that we are now petitioning to the NCAA that the wording was incorrect. Imagine that, I don’t go down easy. There was one other coach who got the same one wrong. I’m letting him lead the charge.” When asked about having the attention being on him more than the players this upcoming season, Ryan scoffed at that idea. “When people come to the Kohl Center I want them to root for the players,” Ryan said. “Why else would you come to the game? They don’t come to the game to see an old guy walking around the sideline or somebody exchange recipes with the officials. People come to see the kids play. I don’t think our fans do anything but that.” It was clear that Ryan wasn’t too worried about having the attention on him this season. Needing to replace two starters who went in the top 20 of last week’s NBA draft and another three seniors who are NBA summer league rosters, Ryan knows he and his staff have their work cut out for them.
“This group right here, especially after watching the first two workouts, I think they need us,” he said. “I think they need the coaches and get as much experience as they can get. We are not very, I’m not going to use the term good, we are not a team by any means. We have a lot of raw players that are going to be good players, but we still have a lot of work to do.”“We have to get this group ready,” Ryan added. “These next two hours are the most important hours of the year and you want to know why because it is the next two hours.”