Bo Ryan's illustrious tenure as the Wisconsin head basketball coach came to a shocking and sudden end Tuesday night.
Ryan announced his immediate retirement following Wisconsin's win over Texas A&M Corpus Christi, stunning the college basketball world.
"After months of conversation with Barry Alvarez and his administrative staff, as well as my wife, Kelly, I have decided that now is the right time to step down from the head-coaching position here at Wisconsin," Ryan said in the school's announcement.
"This was a decision months in the making. I brought this up to Barry back in April. He advised me to take some time to think it over, and I appreciated that. But in recent weeks, I have come to the conclusion that now is the right time for me to retire and for Greg Gard to have the opportunity to coach the team for the remainder of the season. I discussed this with Barry, and I appreciate him giving me the space to make this decision."
This was expected to be Ryan's final season after the school announced as much earlier this year, though Ryan turned that into far less of a certainty with some comments that alluded to that decision not being set in stone.
Ryan explained Tuesday that he wanted to retire following the Badgers' second straight run to the Final Four in April but that he was advised to take some time to think things over. Ryan explained Tuesday that it was his desire to retire and hand the job over to Gard, the team's associate head coach, earlier this year. But Gard’s father battled cancer and passed away during the offseason, and Ryan felt it wasn’t appropriate to put the duties of head coaching on Gard’s plate at that time. He explained that he and Alvarez decided on the university's semester break to step down and hand the job over to Gard. Tuesday night's game was the final game of the semester.
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But Ryan has known for a while that he was ready to give up the rigors of coaching. He just couldn't make a final decision on the appropriate time to do so.
"I knew the energy level. Barry knew the energy level in football, the things, the demands of the time, the speaking, the traveling, trying to do things to help other people. I enjoy doing it, and the thing was, I felt it was time. But I couldn’t make the decision at that time," Ryan said. "And I don’t know how many coaches have had the opportunity to have an AD and an administration that understands and respects that.
“I knew it would come. It’s just we can’t always do it the way we’d like."
Ryan is the all-time winningest coach in Wisconsin history with a record of 364-130 in 14 and a half seasons. He led the Badgers to seven Big Ten championships and NCAA tournament appearances in all 14 of his seasons in Madison prior to this one. He took the program to its highest level with Final Four trips in each of the past two seasons. Last season, he led the Badgers to the national championship game, where they fell to Duke and finished as national runners-up. Ryan led the Badgers to 12 20-win seasons and four 30-win seasons.
The start to this season has been a struggle after losing four starters from last year's team. Wisconsin is 7-5 through its first 12 games, including three losses at the Kohl Center.
Gard, who has served as a Ryan assistant for 23 seasons, immediately takes over as interim head coach, and unsurprisingly Ryan is confident in the job he'll do.
“Greg’s ready. The staff’s ready. All the way through, top-flight people. And I feel real good about that," Ryan said. "His record as an assistant coach? I told the team that there are people who have received head-coaching jobs who were assistants at places without anywhere near the record that he has. Not even close.
"There’s nobody more prepared than him."
Ryan leaves an unmatched legacy at Wisconsin and will go down as one of the Big Ten's all-time great head basketball coaches.
His tenure ended in abrupt and unexpected fashion Tuesday night, but there was nothing abrupt about the amount of success he achieved over a decade and a half running the show in Madison.