Wednesday, the college basketball world reacted to the retirement of long-time Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan. Ryan’s Badgers have opened the year at 7-5, and were coming off a win against Texas A&M Corpus Christi when he announced that he would step away. Ryan had said before the season that he would be retiring at the end of the year, so yesterday’s announcement surprised some people, but what was particularly off putting was the timing of it.
“I wasn’t surprised that Bo walked away mid-season,” said Gary Parrish a college basketball columnist for CBSSports.com on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “I was surprised that it came damn near midnight on a Tuesday after playing Texas A&M Corpus Christi. I mean, who retires like that? I mean even Steve Spurrier–because people keep comparing this to other guys who walked away in the middle of the season–but, even Spurrier walked away on a Monday afternoon. You know, they schedule a press conference and say “Hey, Steve Spurrier’s going to announce his retirement today, everybody be there.” Bo just went into a press conference, like it’s a normal press conference after a win, and just announced to the world he’s done coaching.”
Following the story has been a roller coaster ride this year, with Ryan wavering back and forth on whether he would retire. As with many iconic coaches, Ryan has an idea of who he wants to succeed him in the head coaching role, and that has played a factor.
“The way he wanted this to go down, is the way it goes down at a lot of places where legends and icons coach,” said Parrish. “It was important for Bo, for Greg Gard, his long-time assistant, to be his successor at Wisconsin. Bo I think just always assumed that’s the way this would go down. So he went to Barry Alvarez in the off-season and he says “I’m going to do one more year, then I’m going to walk away and we’re going to hand this thing to Greg.” Alvarez said “Well, we’ll consider handing this thing over to Greg, but I don’t know that I’m going to do that. He’s not our coach in waiting, I’m not certain I wouldn’t want to hire somebody else or at least try to hire somebody else. So, no I don’t think Greg Gard’s going to be our coach in waiting.” At which point Bo started to waffle a little bit, he was just pissed off frankly. So what he’s done with that announcement last night is put Greg in a position where he’s going to be sitting in the head coaches chair for at least the next few months.”
In retiring mid-season, Ryan ensured that Gard would be named the interim head coach for the rest of the season as he was on Wednesday. This will give Gard an opportunity to try and prove to AD Barry Alvarez that he’s the right man for the job, which is exactly what Ryan wanted.
“Bo has kind of, he’s tried to manipulate the process a little bit,” said Parrish. “Frankly, he’s not the first guy who’s done it. Jim Calhoun did this exact same thing, walking away so close to the season to make sure that Kevin Ollie would get a chance. Bob Knight walked away mid-season to ensure that Pat Knight would get a chance at Texas Tech, so Bo’s just the latest to do it.”
Wisconsin returns to the floor next Wednesday, December 23rd against Green Bay. The game tips off at 9 PM ET.