So it’s not a huge surprise that Moore jumped at the opportunity to return to coaching when Greg Gard called him following the retirement of Bo Ryan in December, saying he wanted to hire him for the open spot on the bench.
But the reality of the situation is that Moore believed in what Gard stood for, what he was teaching and knew he was going to take things in the right direction.
“To come back and see one of your very good friends being in that mold now, being able to bring you back with him and help take the program to new heights, it’s exciting,” said Moore. “I’m very flattered that he even considered me.”
After announcing the hiring Monday night, Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez officially introduced long-time associate head coach Greg Gard as the 16th coach in school history, citing the culmination of many things that Gard passed with flying colors.
“Everything was A-plus,” said Alvarez. “I just didn’t see anything that was below standard. I thought he did an excellent job of managing the entire job. To see that team get better and better, play against very good teams, spoke volumes.
“It was a combination of all those things that kept selling me on Greg as the right person.”
After working on a one-year contract his entire life, Gard inked a five-year contract that will start at $1.75 million and increase by $50,000 annually. For comparison, Ryan made $2.946 million last season.
A large crowd packed into the Nicholas-Johnson Pavilion adjacent to the Kohl Center to hear Gard thank friends, family and coaches from his playing days at Iowa Grant High School to the current members of the Wisconsin basketball program.
He called the last 24 hours “surreal,” starting with his emotional meeting with the players prior to the announcement becoming official.
“For me, it was thank you for what you've done for me, thank you for what you've done for my family,” Gard said of his meeting. “I'm still going to be a pain in your rear end for a while, and we've got a lot yet to accomplish. So it was very emotional.”
Junior Zak Showalter wasn’t at the meeting because of class obligations. But having heard the reports coming out earlier in the day that Gard was going to be named the head coach, Showalter, junior Nigel Hayes and sophomores Matt Ferris and Aaron Moesch stopped by his office for early congratulations.
“It’s cool to be the first couple that he told,” said Showalter. “That was cool to experience that. I’ll remember that for a while.”
A Wisconsin assistant since 2001, Gard, 45, took over as interim head coach following the retirement of Ryan on Dec. 15. After starting 2-4 while he implemented his changes, most notably the swing offense, Wisconsin won 11 of its final 13 games to finish the regular season in a tie for third place in the Big Ten with a 12-6 record — extending its streak of top-four finishes to a league-record 16th-consecutive season.
The job opening was posted on Feb.25 – a day after Wisconsin’s 67-59 road victory at No.8 Iowa. Alvarez said that the posting coincided with his conversation with school administrators, feeling they had done their due diligence “after talking to a number of people.”
“There was no reason to go any farther,” said Alvarez. “We know who the right man for the job is. The timing is right.”
Alvarez also looked at how the team responded when faced with adversity and how they would bounce back. After the 1-4 conference start, Wisconsin won seven straight games. After losing in a tough road environment at Michigan State, Wisconsin won its next four games.
Not only did Alvarez see an even-keel response from the players during practices and games, he felt Gard had tremendous interaction with the boosters, alumni and the media.
“Greg took the bull by the horns and implemented his offense and gradually improved his team and his players, had a plan to incorporate more players to build depth,” said Alvarez. “You don’t have to be a great basketball person to see the improvement as the season went along.”
In 15 seasons on the Badgers' bench, Gard has helped coach Wisconsin to a record of 377-136 (.734) and 184-74 (.713) in Big Ten play.
Admitting to never getting wrapped up in the hiring process, benefited by the Badgers having a lot of work to do improving for the next practice or the next game to try and right the ship, Gard said the whirlwind that started nearly three months ago will likely hit him this spring. And not after too long, he’ll get right back to work.
“I'm a lucky guy, to be able to navigate my way through my career and not have to change my zip code out of the state of Wisconsin,” said Gard. “Do you know how unique that is and rare? Do you know how special that is? That's unbelievable, and I'm so proud of all the people that have helped me along the way.”
“We'll work extremely hard to continue to make Badger fans smile, and every time they put on their Wisconsin hat or sweatshirt or tee shirt, a big grin comes over their face and they're ready to root for the Badgers.”