Bo Ryan stunned the college-basketball world Tuesday night by announcing his immediate retirement after the Badgers beat Texas A&M – Corpus Christi 64-49.
“This is very emotional,” a choked-up Ryan said at his post-game press conference. “We knew that if we told anyone that the news would leak in advance, but we decided that changing at the semester break was the best thing possible. It isn’t hard to walk away after 40-some years in coaching, but that time comes for everyone.”
Ryan’s top assistant, Greg Gard, will take over the team on an interim basis. His first game will be Dec. 23 against Green Bay.
“This is hard for Coach and hard for our players,” Gard said. “But he’s not going to vanish off the face of the Earth. I still have his phone number, and he will always be a part of this program.”
Ryan took over the Badgers in 2001 after coaching at Wisconsin-Platteville and Milwaukee. He finished with a 364-130 record at Wisconsin, and a 747-233 record overall in a career that began in 1984. He won three D-III national titles at Platteville, and took the Badgers to the NCAA tournament in each of his 14 full seasons. They went to the Final Four in each of the last two years, losing to Duke in April’s national-championship game.
“This is tough,” said junior guard Zak Showalter, whose father Steve played for Ryan at Wisconsin-Platteville. “He’s been a legend in Wisconsin for a long time. I remember watching going to UW-M games when I was five years old and seeing him coach.”
Gard has been on Ryan’s staff since 1993, moving with him from Platteville to Milwaukee to Madison.
In June, Ryan announced that he would retire at the end of the 2015-16 season, and that he hoped Gard would replace him. However, athletic director Barry Alvarez was not willing to guarantee Gard’s accession, so Ryan said he was reconsidering his plans.
By retiring now, he gives Gard one preseason game and the Big Ten schedule to make his case for the full-time job. Alvarez said at Tuesday’s press conference that a decision on a permanant replacement will come after the season.