Monday Press Conference: Bo Ryan

Wisconsin men's basketball coach discusses Greg Stiemsma's return, UNC-Greensboro and his birthday

According to the notes, Greg Stiemsma had his first practice Saturday. Just can you talk about, a little bit about what you saw from him in his first practice or two, and kind of what the modified practice, in this case what does it mean?

"Well, that he doesn't get to go the whole time and it's just easing him back into the routine. But typical timing, not there on the decision-making with passes and footwork, and all the things that normally get a little rusty when you're not playing. But he'll work his way back. And modified simply means not at full strength."

Is he doing shooting stations or is he taking part in 5-on-5 drills?

"Yes. Both of those."

Is he on the same timeframe that you gave us, or that the trainers gave us initially, do you know?

"Couldn't tell you."

Can you talk a little bit about your background with Fran McCaffery, the Greensboro coach? He's from the Philadelphia area. How long you've known him, and I guess you knew his wife too. I don't know if she was his wife at the time, but she was . . .

"No. She was a camper. It just, it's one of those at a Final Four, got on a bus coming back from maybe like the semifinals on a Saturday or we were going to the city, the host city at Final Fours always has kind of a meal get-together type thing, hospitality night. It was one of those. Got on the bus and I thought, and I know Fran, and I thought that the woman that was with him looked familiar, and then he kind of just, you know, he smiled, she smiled, and I said, now, do I know you. And they started to laugh. They said, yeah. And then I go, I thought I recognized you. She was MVP at our basketball camp at Platteville, and she's from the Minneapolis area and she went to Notre Dame. I guess that's where they met. So small world. So when we were talking, well, how about you need a game, and so we talked about that a little bit. And then Coach Gard ended up contacting them, and that's how we hooked up the game. They were willing to come in."

Do you know which Final Four that was?

"Oh, boy. They all run together for me. I'm not sure. It's our convention too, coaches' convention. My wife doesn't go. My dad goes. Kind of a guys' thing at the Final Four."

Coach, can you talk about how difficult the challenge is of preparing a team while going through finals week and what unique changes or situations you have to do for the team to be able to do it and do what they have to do for finals as well?

"I absolutely don't give any credence to ever accepting anything different than what we expect in November, because if you start doing that then all of a sudden perception becomes reality. I wasn't any kinder today when guys were not doing what we wanted them to do. The other day we just did shooting drills just with the idea that we're going to sprint, shoot, but expected good shooting, good passing habits, good everything the same. It's not like, well, hey, I know you guys are going through finals so we'll just take it easy today.

"I don't do that, because in life, well, you know, if you have a job, oh, ‘you know, we don't have much coming up so just take it easy today.' I don't say that. I don't accept that. You come every day ready to accomplish something. So today's practice wasn't any different than any other. But knowing that they have other things on their mind, but they need to be able to separate just like we've got to separate, if you're having problems at home and you go to your job when you're 45 years old, you still better do your job. And if there's something wrong at the job, when you go home you shouldn't take that out at home on your family. So I think a good training area is right here right now for our guys. That's one of life's messages we can pass on as coaches."

Along those same lines, have you been able to have most of your guys in practice or have a lot of guys been missing time because of finals?

"No, because that's how we arrange the times. We get their finals schedules first and then arrange our time."

And then also, once this exam week ends, from the end of the semester to the start of the next semester, how much of a, is that a better time for guys to, for lack of a better word refocus and is that a good practice time in general?

"Yeah, you know, you can get situations in, up 4 with 20 seconds to go, down 6 with a minute to go. That's when I've been able to get, I mean, we get some of those in at times, but that's usually a time where we can get some more of those in, is over break. But everything else is pretty much the same. You prepare. You know, you're not changing the game any. But you get more, for us we get more situations in, game situations."

Bo, kind of along those lines, with two games right around Christmas, how does that change, do the players get some time off? What do you plan to do this weekend with the Friday and Saturday holiday?

"What date is Friday? I believe we come back Christmas night. I don't know. I know tomorrow's practice starts at 9 a.m. And I'm not sure what we're doing Friday. I'll be real honest with you. But I think there's a little bit of time there where they can go home. There's a couple periods where, I don't have the calendar here in front of me to be able to give you that answer. I'm a day-to-day guy."

Without giving a scouting report, what kind of team does Greensboro have? What sort of style do they play?

"Well, they're pretty quick. You know, their two losses have come to two pretty good teams, Iowa and Duke. They're not bad. So, I mean, they're quick. They're heady. Pretty good with the ball. About all we know so far."

Since Rob (Jeter) was elevated or had the title changed to associate head coach, does that entail more duties, responsibilities, or what, have you been asking anything different of him this year?

"More agonizing for him because he's always waiting to see if I'm going to get tossed at a game. But, no, he just, there's other things that, you know, making sure on the recruiting, where we're looking, what we're doing. He always knows what we're doing with the scout team because he's on the scout team, so he knows what the other team's trying to do all the time. So he's just, he's ready."

Bo, are you resigned to the idea that Rob Jeter will someday be a head coach and not be by your side on the bench? Do you think that'll happen sometime soon?

"Yeah, I don't think there's any question that he's going to be a head coach. It's just, you know, a matter of when and where. And there's other schools that, as a matter of fact, they're trying to, you know, like say that he ought to leave, because they know he's pretty good so they don't want to compete against him in recruiting and things like that. It's amazing how these people work. But he's doing his job right now. And to speculate about somebody's job and where they might be, I don't know how productive that is to what we're trying to accomplish. But he's doing everything in the profession that you need to do to make sure you're ready. Let's put it that way."

So do you mean other schools are saying, ‘oh, he's not going to be there because he's going to be a head coach somewhere else so don't go to Wisconsin?' Is that what you're . . .

"Oh, I don't know. It's amazing. Because people like to talk. People like to surmise. People like to guess. People like to get into the what-ifs and how-come. We're being as practical as we can be. We've got a game Thursday. We've got to prepare for that. We're recruiting certain guys now that are sophomores, juniors, seniors. We've got a job to do. Why would you think about another job? That would be like asking me if I'm thinking about looking at something or if the other coaches are. What's that in December have to do with what we're doing? We've got things to do."

Coach, with Christmas coming up, some of your players were asked recently about what their favorite gift they've ever been given for Christmas or ones that they've given to other people. Any stories for what, as you go back through the many Christmases that you've been able to celebrate, your favorite gift that you've received, or most interesting?

"Just holiday season sometimes people tend to focus on gifts and giving and receiving. I just like to always think at this time about, you know, how fortunate I am as a family member, as in my profession, how fortunate I am to be doing what I'm doing personally. And then I'm thankful for everything that I have and try to make sure that other people are pretty happy with what they have by doing my job. Because if I do my job, there's a lot of people that can do a lot of things at Christmas for the people that are around them, and I just figure I'm the facilitator as a head coach and doing what I do.

"So I'm not a, I don't talk about Christmas around the players because it's a state institution. I got guys that might not look at Christmas the same way as the other guys do, so I don't force anything on anybody. I don't do the ideology part of Christmas. I think everybody ought to be nice every day and be thankful every day and give of themselves in June too, as well as now. Those are the messages that I give. The gifts that I have are as a result of the friendships that I've developed over the years."

What have you liked most about your defense so far and what are you working on to improve it?

"Well, we're still fairly cognizant of keeping people from getting to the rim for easy shots. For the most part, keeping people off the glass. A couple teams have gotten us on the offensive boards and we've had to pay for that. They're committed to the scouting report. Today we put in Greensboro's. And to the commitment of who to chase on, who to go under on on screens, who to, our guys have been pretty diligent about following the rules. And, you know, you notice how Arizona used our same rules defensively, switching out. Didn't matter who it was. The only problem was the Arizona guys, a few of them were just a little bit more athletic and active and long and made it a little bit tougher for them. So, I mean, I'm proud of the way our guys have played even in the bumps that we've taken defensively, except for the, some of the glass work that we didn't get cleaned up."

Okay, Bo, since we're just focusing on today, it's your birthday, right?

"That's what they say. I stopped at 25 ever counting, so couldn't even tell you which one it is."

Last year the players doused you in the locker room. Anything going on today, any special plans that you may have for your birthday?

"No. Well, you have to preface that with the fact that we played and won a game on the birthday. Today was, you know, my wife's birthday's yesterday. Duffy Conroy's is tomorrow, for those that are keeping track. The two of them are much younger than me, so they, no, 25, isn't that the age with insurance, where you have to get your own and all that? See, that was the last time I counted. And I guess 65 will be the next one that I'll count, because something else happens there. But when I turned 50 and started getting that AARP card stuff, I really, that was disappointing. I mean, they could have waited. No, again, I'm just thankful to be around another year."

Since people like to talk, you're only going to coach until you're 65? Is that what you're saying?

"Well, I don't know. I mean, when you're having this much fun, I mean the press conference. I mean, when you're having this much fun, why would you ever want to stop. You know, I just, again, it's all about, you know, just if you have a passion for something then you just keep doing it."

Are you happy with your offense, how it's being run, and how things are, I mean, you're getting the looks that you want? I mean, are you pleased with that, the way you've seen so far?

"Well, yeah. We're, you know, some teams have gaudier numbers, but you might also take a look at who they've played. We've played some teams that defensively can get some things done. And, you know, even when we have struggled with the shooting percentage, our defense has kept us in games and allowed us a chance. And sometimes it's hard to score. Every team goes through that. But what they're doing is they're trying to find one another, on the free throws, trying to get to the line and making more than the other team shoots, things like that. Those are always things that we're always trying to do."

Another question related to Greg's comeback sort of. He's a guy, he's another one of your guys who seems like he has had foot injuries in the last couple years or so. I guess I'm just wondering from you, has it struck you as a lot of guys that have had foot-type problems and have you ever scratched your head at all and said, you know, what's . . .

"Nah, because it's happening all over. There's a lot of guys that go through that. And with his it might have been a result of after the ACL and then how you're running differently. You know how people will put pressure on different spots. So his is different. His area is different. So it's all different. It's not the same."

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