Big Ten

Bo Ryan calls for Greg Gard, who'd bring 'stability' as Badgers successor

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Bo Ryan calls for Greg Gard, who'd bring 'stability' as Badgers successor

Do we already know who the next head basketball coach at Wisconsin will be?

Bo Ryan announced that the upcoming 2015-16 season will be his last in a statement released Monday. In that statement, he also said that his preference his to have current associate head coach Greg Gard take over the reins of the program.

Ryan's words weren't subtle, but for some reason, many across the Internet seemed to dismiss them and threw together lists of potential coaching candidates for the soon-to-be vacancy.

But would athletics director Barry Alvarez really go outside the program when the departing Ryan named his pick for his successor in his retirement announcement?

[MORE BIG TEN: Badgers' Bo Ryan to retire following 2015-16 season]

It doesn't seem too likely, especially considering that Alvarez himself was in a similar situation not too long ago, retiring after his tenure as the Badgers' head football coach and hand picking Bret Bielema to be his successor. Alvarez famously got burned when Bielema fled to Arkansas, and it happened again when Gary Andersen departed for Oregon State just two years after taking over for Bielema. But Alvarez then picked another Wisconsin guy in Paul Chryst, who will begin his first season running the show this fall.

So wouldn't Alvarez honor Ryan's wishes, honor the guy who's taken the basketball program to unprecedented heights in his 14 years in Madison?

Gard spoke Monday in an interview on the Mike Heller Show on 1070 AM in Madison, and he wasn't acting like he had the job quite yet.

“It’s obviously an honor. You’re extremely humbled by it," Gard said of being named in Ryan's statement. "Obviously, Bo and my relationship is very good, and we’ve been together for a long, long time — I think 22 years, to be exact. So it’s obviously been very humbling. You don’t know exactly how to respond to it or react to it. But it’s something as time goes on and this process plays itself out down the road, hopefully I’m part of that process and we’ll see where it goes. But I’m extremely honored by Bo to be able to make that type of comment about me. Our relationship goes back for a long, long time through a lot of good things that have happened, not only in this program but the other places we’ve been, as well. It’s a very humbling statement for him to make.”

[MORE BIG TEN: Frank Kaminsky, more Badgers react to Bo Ryan's retirement announcement]

As he mentioned, Gard has served as Ryan's assistant for a long time. He's been at Wisconsin for all of Ryan's 14 years as head coach, and prior to that, he was with Ryan at UW-Milwaukee and UW-Platteville.

Gard might not be as big a name as some other former Ryan assistants who have gone on to head-coaching gigs at UW-Milwaukee (Rob Jeter), Ohio (Saul Phillips) and most famously Virginia (Tony Bennett). But what Gard can guarantee is a smooth, consistent transition running a show extremely similar to the one Ryan has run for the last decade and a half.

Gard spoke to that while talking about recruiting, saying that the staff has always sold the school more than the head coach and throwing around the words "stability" and "continuity" quite a bit. You can almost see this as a template for a pitch to Alvarez, be it from Gard or Ryan.

"I think the one thing that has always been great about this place, regardless of sport, is that you recruit to the university more so than you do a specific individual," Gard said. "And the academic pieces of it, our facilities, our tradition, the fan base, all those things are what we probably sell more than any one individual. And we always do it as a group, any recruit gets a chance to know all of us. And I think another thing is our stability our staff has had. I’ve been here the entire 14 years that coach Ryan has been here, obviously Gary (Close) has been here a long time, and Lamont (Paris) has joined us here in the last four or five years. There’s been incredible stability, incredible continuity within our staff, and that’s huge when it comes to a point of all being on the same page and delivering the right message to the young men that you’re talking to and those families.”

[MORE BIG TEN: Illini's Malcolm Hill invited to USA Basketball training camp]

It would be a bit of a surprise if Alvarez chose to ignore Ryan's call for Gard to take over the program following the 2015-16 season. But Gard is smartly not counting his chickens before they hatch.

“I’m sure that once they get to the point where they decide, they’ll have to post the job just like any other university job before," Gard said. "And there’ll be a posting process, and there’ll be a hiring process that I’m sure coach Alvarez will head up and go through with whatever people he puts on the committee or whoever’s involved with that. That will be in the hands of coach Alvarez and the people that do the hiring process. So in terms of what’s next for me, I don't know.

"What’s next for me is making sure this team is ready to go for ’15-16 and focusing on that. And whatever happens beyond that down the road, as the process unfolds and steps are unveiled on what needs to happen, hopefully I’ll be involved with that.”

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

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USA TODAY

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

Tough news out of Evanston this morning: Northwestern announced that running back Jeremy Larkin will retire immediately after being diagnosed with cervical stenosis.

Cervical stenois is the narrowing of the spinal canal in one's neck, according to Mayo Clinic. Larkin's condition is thankfully not life-threatening, though it does prevent him from continuing to participate in the game of football. 

"Football has been a lifelong passion and it has been a process to reconcile the fact I won't be on that field again, given I've played this game since I was five years old," Larkin said.

"I'm extremely appreciative of the Northwestern sports medicine and athletic training staffs for uncovering this condition, and for my coaches and the medical staff for always putting my health first.

"I came to this University to engage at the absolute highest level on the field and in the classroom, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue one of those while supporting my teammates from the sideline." 

Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald called the news "heartbreaking."

"This is heartbreaking because I see every day how much Jeremy loves the game, loves his teammates, and loves to compete," Fitzgerald said in a statement. "But this is the absolute best possible outcome for him.

"The discovery of this condition allowed Jeremy and his family to make an informed decision for his long-term health and well-being. For those of us who have known Jeremy Larkin since his high school days, his future is exceptionally bright. I can't wait to see the impact he makes in our world."

Larkin is a sophomore from Cincinnati. He finishes his Northwestern career with 156 carries for 849 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

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USA TODAY

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

Former University of Illinois tennis star Kevin Anderson completed a marathon upset against an all-time great on the highest stage of professional tennis.

Anderson came back from two sets down to beat Roger Federer in Wimbledon’s quarterfinals 2-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 13-11 on Wednesday morning. He will play in the semifinals of the tournament for the first time in his career.

As a native of South Africa, Anderson played three seasons with the Fighting Illini and won the NCAA doubles championship during the 2005-06 season as a sophomore. The 32-year-old was a three-time All-American in singles at Illinois.

Now, as the eighth ranked singles player on the ATP World Tour, Anderson is a force to be reckoned with at the professional level. He made it all the way to the US Open final in 2017.

The former Illini star will look to keep his recent success going when he represents Illinois in the semifinals of Wimbledon this Friday.