"I would say over the course of the years that he would be in the top three and probably the most competitive," Ryan said. "There's some that are real close, but he definitely likes to compete."
After spending 10 of his first 11 years in coaching as a Ryan assistant, including the past four seasons with the Badgers, Jeter returns to the Kohl Center Thursday night as the first-year head coach at UW-Milwaukee. He brings with him a résumé that bellows "competitor."
In 16 seasons in the NCAA as a player, assistant coach and now head coach, Jeter is 351-103. He was won three national championships and nine conference titles.
Wisconsin's players have no problem recalling Jeter's fire, the passionate competitiveness that was his coaching style. As an assistant coach and associate head coach at UW, Jeter played alongside the Badgers in practices.
"He hated losing," junior forward Jason Chappell said. "He would be grabbing guys, holding them, when we were on the scout team, doing everything he could…to try and win."
Though the scout team by its nature should be at a disadvantage, Jeter did not just want to give the first-team guys a run for their money, he wanted to beat them convincingly.
"He was very intense," junior forward Alando Tucker said. "I know as a coach he's the same way. We'd be in at halftime in the locker room, he'd let us hear it if we weren't playing up to potential. I'd just say he's very competitive and I think he learned that a lot from being around coach Ryan."
Otto Puls, the Badgers' official scorekeeper for home games and a former Big Ten referee, felt the full brunt of Jeter's desire to win. Time and time again. Puls helps out with UW's practices and often officiates scrimmage sessions—and not always in the most even-handed manner.
"We couldn't buy a call on the scout team," sophomore center Greg Stiemsma said with a smile. "Some days worse than others. Once in a while it would just not go our way and (Jeter would) let Otto have it a little bit… It was all in fun though."
Asked for his favorite Jeter anecdote, junior point guard Kammron Taylor also recalled a scout-team moment, involving another coach's competitive fire.
"They probably won't want me to say this, but… It was my freshman year and the scout team was pretty much dominating actually the first team," Taylor said. "So coach Jeter and coach Ryan got into a little argument during practice. I actually thought that was kind of funny because I never saw anybody challenge coach (Ryan) like that.
"Coach Jeter, he's a feisty guy and I think he got that from coach Ryan and to see two feisty guys going at it like that was pretty funny."
Lest the above examples paint a less than endearing portrait, it should be known that Jeter's competitiveness was always tinged with an emphatic desire to make his players better, both on and off the court. Tucker, Stiemsma, Chappell and the rest of UW's post players over the last four years benefited tremendously from his teaching.
"(Jeter's) a really classy person to be around," UW assistant Gary Close said. "….He does it the right way. That's why he'll be really good for a long time."
"He treats people the right way," Close said. "Just a really, really good person."
This season, Jeter's work while at UW may be most clearly manifested in the play of Chappell, who has emerged as one of UW's most consistent contributors after three injury-plagued years.
"He always told me he could see when I was getting down the first few years when I wasn't playing that much," Chappell said. "He just said, ‘Just keep working hard, you (have) all the tools you need. If you keep working hard it will come in the future.'"
Jeter played four seasons (1987-91) under Ryan's tutelage at UW-Platteville and captained the Pioneers '91 NCAA Division III National Championship squad. Coerced out of the business world and into coaching by Ryan, Jeter helped Platteville go 108-6 from 1994-98, including national titles in '95 and '98.
After spending one year as an assistant under Mike Deane at Marquette, Jeter rejoined Ryan at UW-Milwaukee, where the latter had just taken over as head coach. In two years, Ryan and Jeter helped mold the moribund Panthers into a respectable program. In Jeter's four seasons at Wisconsin, the Badgers won two Big Ten titles, one Big Ten tournament title and earned four NCAA Tournament berths.
UWM reached the Sweet Sixteen last year and returned the majority of its personnel, including star forwards Adrian Tigert (10.7 points, 7.0 rebounds per game) and Joah Tucker (15.7, 5.8), two of five senior starters.
Jeter's squad is 4-2, having won three straight. Like last season's Panthers, UWM will employ a full-court press, which could be a key to countering UW's size advantage.
"They've been fun to watch on tape because you can just see they're getting better and better with each game," Close said.
Jeter knows Wisconsin's personnel about as well as anyone and runs the same swing offense he coached as a Ryan assistant.
Ryan, meanwhile, knows a thing or two about Jeter.
"This is two people in a profession that's an honorable profession," Ryan said. "We feel that we can do things to help young people in their lives. And doing it against him is about as good as it gets."
What: Wisconsin (8-1) v. UW-Milwaukee (4-2)
When: Thursday, Dec. 15 at 7:05 p.m.
Site: Kohl Center (17,142) in Madison, Wis.
Broadcasts: ESPN Plus will televise the game live, including on the following Wisconsin stations: UPN14 in Madison, WMLW in Milwaukee, WLAX in La Crosse, WEUX in Eau Claire.
Series notes: Wisconsin leads the overall series 21-1, including 13-1 in Madison… UW's Ray Nixon and UWM's Derrick Wimmer were high school teammates at Whitefish Bay Dominican; UW's Brian Butch and UWM's Nick Hansen were teammates at Appleton West; UW's Tanner Bronson and Morris Cain and UWM's Joah Tucker were teammates at Nicolet.