All smiles

Content in pursuing NBA dream, Devin Harris was back to his old self Thursday, enjoying one last Kohl Center press conference with coach Bo Ryan

MADISON, Wis.—A month ago, Devin Harris looked torn in two.

He had just bought himself a little time, delaying his final decision between the dream of the NBA and the dream he was living at Wisconsin. Despite suggestions that Harris sat in the best of win-win situations, torn between two sets of glorious possibilities, the Badger star and reigning Big Ten Player of the Year looked like a young man fending off impending doom, shaken to the bone by the task before him.

Thursday, Harris' naturally effervescent smile returned. Content with his decision to take the next step to the NBA, he interjected jovially when his coach of the past three years, Bo Ryan, answered questions from the assorted media in attendance.

A month ago, Harris needed more time to think. More time to consider the possibilities. It was May 5, just five days before the NBA's Early Entry deadline and Harris said he had barely slept the night before, tossing and turning as his potential decision bounced around his head.

Thursday, Harris spoke with confidence, having finalized his decision a week before. He took a little time to be sure, he said, and could not have looked happier for his patience.

Thursday, what had seemed a decision of insurmountable proportions suddenly shrunk to the most minuscule of sizes. Harris, of course, said all the right things about it being a difficult decision: how much he will miss his coaches, teammates and the Wisconsin fans. He will, certainly, as they will all miss his sparkling play and jovial personality. But Thursday, Harris was a young man at ease with himself and at ease with the future he had chosen.

It was Ryan that worked hard to keep his composure. United with his best player, quite possibly the best player to ever don a Wisconsin uniform, during what is likely their final press conference together, Ryan choked back tears as the time wound down.

He was fine for most of the 25-minute press conference. He joked and laughed with Harris and offered as many pointed kudos as he normally would in a dozen postgame press conferences. But as the time drew to a close, tears welled up in Ryan's eyes. When Wisconsin's sports information director announced there was time for one more question, Ryan looked like it might be all he could take. In many ways, he was saying goodbye to a son. He even related the moment to that time all parents fear and love, when their progeny can spread their wings with a little less guidance.

"Well, when you have children they leave the nest also and they move on," Ryan said. "Devin has been very good for Wisconsin basketball… whatever our players end up doing we just ask that they do it in a positive way and do the best they can. Sometimes that's on the basketball court."

For his sake, Harris' decision was far easier with Ryan by his side.

"I called Coach the other day and the first thing he said to me was, ‘it's your time," Harris said. "That's kind of what I was waiting for, the kind of blessing that I got from him. Once I got it then I knew it was the right decision for me."

Ryan knows that Harris will be back some time, that he will keep Wisconsin in his heart, but it was a parting none the less.

"So my emotions are: the good part is, here is a young man going out there representing Wisconsin in a very positive way and I know he's not going to change (as a person)," Ryan said.

"He's the part of the program I'll probably miss the most," Harris said of his coach. "I don't know if in the NBA I can talk to the coach like I can here and come over and during the game and figure and talk strategy…I don't know if we'll be on the same kind of plane. I can't replace a Coach Ryan. I'll never have a coach like him again. I can't speak into words what he means to me."
So after the morning's last question was answered, Harris and Ryan tapped fists and smiled—two men at ease with the decision just made and content with how far they had come in three years together. They embraced and left the podium one after the other to accept the thanks and congratulations of family, friends and media members; the thanks of three wondrous years of growth, as player, coach and individuals.

"What I'll miss about him the most and the fact that he was just a joy to coach," Ryan said.

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