Monday press conference: Bo Ryan

Wisconsin men's basketball coach spoke to the media leading up to Thursday's game at Northwestern.

Audio file 1 (5:17)

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How does the extra time you have to prepare for Northwestern help you for Northwestern and all they do?

"Well, I guess you get more repetitions. But, again, your scout team is never going to be able to run the stuff the same way as another team, but they can come close. But you also need to make sure you're taking care of things you've got to do too. So we try to get a balance between what the other team is going to be presenting and what we're doing. The things that we want to be good at are the same things you want to be good at in October, as well as in February and March, because the game won't change during that time period, so fundamentals."

Bo, considering all that's happened in this Big Ten season in terms of losing personnel and such, to be, you know, one of the four teams that have, you know, four losses, at the top of the Big Ten, is that pretty much, given everything that's happened, as much as you could have asked of your guys, you know, at least in terms of positioning themselves right now?

"I never worried about that. I mean, it's conversation for people, I'm sure, but, you know, our guys have worked hard to put themselves where they are. The schedule isn't necessarily the best if you look at it. I'm sure people are already making judgments. But all those things never matter.

"When you say am I happy, are they happy, are we considering what's going on, you know, I just go every day in my life taking care of the things I have control over. I can't worry about all the other things that it seems that some of you people are so obsessed with and worry about. I'm kind of glad I don't. I'm glad I am who I am because, wow, if I'd obsess like some people, I don't know if I could do this.

"So I don't know if we're where we, if I should be happy, sad. I never worry about that. We are where we are and we go to the next game. I'll let other people judge whether that's good, bad or indifferent, because they're all entitled to their opinions. I'm just getting ready for Northwestern."

Who's obsessing?

"Anybody that wants to know those kind of answers. I know Mark (Stewart) is not obsessing. I mean, what do you think, given all the things where you are, what do I, what kind of answer do you give to that? We are where we are. And then we go to the next game. And then we are where we are after that, and then for the next one and the next one.

"You know, I've been here, it's the fifth year now. Mark knew he was going to get that kind of answer. He knew I wasn't going to say I'm happy, I'm sad, I'm in between, I'm six on a 10 scale. Mark knew what he was looking for."

You never know.

"I know. So he, like Mark always says, ‘so I always keep asking.'"

Can you address your team's chemistry and just kind of how it's re-formed itself over the, since the second week of the Big Ten season?

"My explanation never has been taken very seriously by people. It's obvious that, you know, we lost to the sixth-ranked team here. We lost to Michigan when they became ranked. We lost to Ohio State when they were ranked. (We lost to unranked) Purdue in a tough game, so how have we re-whatever, I don't know. We were still working hard, doing some good things. The other teams were better on those nights.

"Did they happen to be in a row? Yeah. But when you're successful in a row, well, then what happened during those games. Sometimes it's the schedule, who the other teams have or don't have at that time, how they're playing. There's so many factors that go into what happens during a particular time of the year. But, again, all we did after each game was got ready for the next one. So we'll never change. So what do we do differently? We haven't done one thing differently in practice or anything else."

Audio file 2 (5:17)

Coach, do you like where this break of competitive game action has taken place or is it kind of, would you have liked to, you know, play the game in this stretch because you guys have been playing well?

"Well, you always like to play. You always like to compete. As you can tell, I've got a lot of pent-up emotions right now because I didn't have anybody to talk to over the weekend or express myself to. I tried in my office at home when I was putting that together and moving from the other house, but my library wasn't listening. My tapes weren't listening. So I really didn't have anybody to vent to or talk to this weekend that way. So we need some action.

"I'll get some out on the court today. Otto is in trouble today. Otto officiates. I need to talk to an official, see what I can learn. I always like playing. I mean, it's, but if the schedule says you can't play, you can't play, so we had a good workout Friday, Saturday and Sunday off, go three days here before we play Northwestern Thursday, and then hopefully the guys had a chance to get some things done this weekend.

"But I can't give you any answers to what a break does, what a this does or that does, because I don't think there's any concrete answers. There's been teams that have played well after a break and teams that couldn't get their timing after a break. So I don't think there is one answer. You'll be judged, our team will be judged by how we play Thursday."

Well, besides getting ready for Northwestern, having some time off during this kind of extended, noncompetitive break, do you work on anything else? Do you expand sort of other things besides just getting ready for a game in practice?

"No. Well, we always go over situations, whether it's during a longer time period. I mean, we'll go over down two, up two, side out, end line out, full court out. We do situations. We might be able to do some more of those during this time.

"And that's something we've done in the past to reinforce what we do if we don't have any timeouts, if we have two timeouts, where the ball is being brought in out of bounds, what the other team does. Because when you're playing a game against a team that has shown one tendency, you always make sure you mix in something else in case they change. But we've always done that, whether we had a long break or not."

Bo, a loaded question. Is veteran Vedran Vukusic the best all-around offensive player in the league?

"Well, I know he's very good. I try to stay away from putting labels on people that way. He can pass. He can shoot. He's strong. So I know he's pretty good. So I don't know, I can't tell you who's the best, but he's pretty good. And he's, you've got to guard him in a lot of different ways. And defensively he's sneaky at times with his passing lanes that he can disrupt. He's a good all-around player."

Coach, you talk about your players and your team is trying to get better each day, each game, each week, each season. Does the same hold true for coaches? Are you a better coach now than you were a week ago, at the start of the season, or when you even first took the job here? And if so, how so?

"I don't know. Got me. I never try to judge myself. That's not important to me. But I'm always studying the game like every other coach, but I'm not better than any other coach. I think pretty much coaches all do the same things. They're always trying to get better. The more experiences you have should help you as a coach.

"But the way you phrased the question, it's like I worry about whether or not I'm better than another coach or who I stack up against. You obviously don't know me, because that's the furthest thing from my mind of anything I'd ever think about. So you're always trying to get better at everything you do, but I don't do it on a comparative scale against somebody."

Audio file 3 (5:06)

Not compared to other coaches, compared to yourself when you first started here. Are you a better coach compared to yourself now than when you first started, not compared to anyone else?

"I don't know. Players would have to be able to be the judge of that because they're the students. So if you're a teacher, then the students are the ones that benefit from what you give them. And if they're better, if they've learned anything, then you say is a teacher getting better?

"I had teachers when they were in their 50s that weren't as good as when they were in their 20s because they weren't as energetic, they didn't care as much, they were sliding because they were on their way out, ready to retire, talking about retiring, talking about things that they're going to do later. I just stay young at heart and stay active in the coaching ranks.

"And by being put on the NABC Board of Directors now, that's exciting because you stay involved with the game from the, more of a leadership of the coaches' association. That group tends to set a lot of the trends and discusses a lot of the issues, so that's fun and exciting. So just by being around a long time doesn't mean you're better if you're not using those experiences and putting them to good use. So the players, the students would be the ones who would be the judges of that, certainly not me."

When you face a team the second time or going through the Big Ten for the second half of the season, in your film work, do you go back and look at the game you played against the team that you played previously? Like for Northwestern, do you go over with your team that game that you played here? Or just talk a little bit about how you may adjust your . . .

"We've already gone over that game with them, but there'll be clips that we'll use from that game in our scout tape."

So basically nothing changes. You don't, in terms of your preparation. When you face a team the second time, it's pretty much the same way you prepare for them the first time.

"Yeah, but teams run certain things more often than not during certain times of the season, what they run lately. There's variations of what Northwestern does. Maybe in the past three games they've run away more than chin or, you know, just two of the phrases that are used for parts of their offense. So if they've shown tendencies a certain way, you obviously have to put those in your preparation.

"But they might turn around and run more through than away. They might run more of one part of their offense than another, so you don't want to take your team, run them through just one thing and then go play a team and have them run something completely different, so you mix it all in."

Since you've been here, you've had very strong second halves of Big Ten seasons. You mentioned that a lot of it is preparation, that you keep the preparation the same. But is there anything that leads you to be stronger in the second half that you focus in on?

"Well, you just hope that you have players that are grasping your concepts and that their basketball IQ is improving. It's still about what the players are doing. I know a lot of coaches that could X and O you to death, but still, what difference does that make if your players aren't picking up on what it is that you're, that's important to the game. They have to execute it and get it done between the lines.

"It isn't like you take an SAT test for coaches and then whoever gets the highest gets the coach of the year. There are a lot of people that know the game of basketball. Just listen in the stands during any game, because everybody played basketball. So I told you, the greatest thing was when my wife was coaching soccer because nobody knew anything about soccer. So a bunch of the dads were up there and my kids are playing, and it's like what do you say, kick the ball, get it in the, I didn't know anything about soccer. I never played.

"That's why Mike Eaves is lucky. I can't help him in coaching hockey. I can't get behind the bench and say, hey, Mike, get that guy to slash a little more in the corner, would you. I can't, I don't know anything about it because I didn't play it or study it. So in basketball, again, it's about the players, what are they picking up, what are they willing to do when they get on the court, how hard are they willing to play, how smart are they willing to play. And sometimes you can be playing hard and smart and the other team is just playing harder and smarter. You come out on the other side."

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