Saturday, April 21, 2018
Sports

'It was time'

At his postgame news conference Tuesday night after Wisconsin's 64-49 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, coach Bo Ryan checked the night's stat sheet. He spoke for a minute about the game. Then Wisconsin's all-time winningest basketball coach announced his immediate retirement.

Ryan's own stat sheet contains mainly highlights. He won more than 75 percent of his games, for 747 victories over more than three decades coaching Division III Wisconsin-Platteville, then Milwaukee, and finally Wisconsin. In 14 full seasons at Wisconsin, his teams reached the NCAA tournament 14 times. The program had made the tournament only seven times previously, yet he got the Badgers to the tournament's second weekend seven times.

Ryan's best record was last season's 36-4, culminating in a hard-fought loss to Duke in the national championship game, but perhaps more impressive is that his worst record, in his first season, was 19-13. He had the highest conference winning percentage in Big Ten history.

But the most astounding stat might be Ryan's home record, at Madison's Kohl Center: 211-22, or .906. Good programs should win more than five in 10 games at home. Winning more than nine in 10 is all but unheard-of. Entering this season, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo's home record was .894. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski's was .887.

Explaining his decision to retire, Ryan, 67, cited "energy level," saying, "I enjoy doing it, and the thing was, I felt it was time."

The Badgers have struggled this year after two straight seasons when they made the Final Four. Having lost Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker to the first round of the NBA draft, the Badgers are 7-5, with recent home losses to Marquette and Milwaukee.

Athletic Director Barry Alvarez said in a statement Tuesday night that Ryan "led our program to the most successful era in school history." Earlier this year, he was named a Hall of Fame finalist.

Ryan's home record is a telling achievement. For four decades, Ryan has essentially been Wisconsin basketball. Like Johnny Appleseed, Ryan was born in the East — in a blue-collar suburb of Philadelphia — and headed west, planting seeds as he went. He took over tiny Platteville in 1984 and won four national championships there. He helped rebuild Milwaukee. And he catapulted the Badgers from the ho-hum into the national elite.

Many of the state's junior highs and high schools run Ryan's trademark's swing offense, as though already grooming Ryan's players; Showalter is the son of a former successful high school coach in Germantown. Platteville's head coach, Jeff Gard, is a Ryan alum. Milwaukee's head coach, Rob Jeter, is a Ryan alum. And now the interim coach at Wisconsin is Greg Gard, Jeff's brother and a 23-year veteran of Ryan's coaching staffs.

Therein lies the stated reasoning behind the abruptness of Ryan's departure. Last spring, after the Badgers' loss to Duke, Ryan expressed a Hamlet-esque indecision about whether to hang it up, and in the statement he finally released, in late June, he said he planned to retire after this season. He was explicit that he wished for Gard — whom a couple months before he credited for devising the game plan that toppled previously undefeated Kentucky in the national semifinals — to be Wisconsin's next coach.

"It's no secret, and every head coach would like their top assistant to be the coach," Ryan said Tuesday night.

Keeping Gard, who has been associate head coach since before the 2008-09 season, would make sense from a if-it's-not-broke-don't-fix-it standpoint. But it would not be out of character for Wisconsin to look elsewhere. It took two job openings for former athletic director Pat Richter to hire Ryan in 2001, including after a courtship of the coach Rick Majerus.

And Alvarez, himself the winningest coach in a Wisconsin team's history — the football team — has hired three football coaches in his 10 years as athletic director (though one was, yes, his former assistant, Bret Bielema). The first suspect for Ryan's successor outside Gard is Tony Bennett, the coach of No. 8 Virginia and the son of retired coach Dick Bennett, who began the Badgers' resurgence in 1995, a few years later leading them to their first Final Four since 1941.

True to form, Ryan began his farewell news conference not by diving into his announcement but by noting that games around finals can always be difficult and then praising his team, saying, "Our guys found themselves, ended up doing some things. Protected the lead, got to the free throw line."

What, after all, could be more important than attempting 31 free throws?

"I was extremely proud of them," Ryan said. New York Times

Comments
2018 NFL schedule: All 256 games ranked

2018 NFL schedule: All 256 games ranked

When the NFL released its schedule Thursday night, we were going to rank the best and worst games. Instead, we entered the Times schedule-evaluation laboratory and ranked all 256 based on their attractiveness and the quality of the teams involved.One...
Updated: 21 minutes ago
Now Batting in Double A: Biggio, Bichette and Guerrero

Now Batting in Double A: Biggio, Bichette and Guerrero

HARTFORD, Conn. — Craig Breslow is 37 years old, with a dozen years of experience as a left-handed reliever in the major leagues. He is pitching now for the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats, just getting to know his teammates. In their openin...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Archer’s sparkling start precedes surreal finish

Archer’s sparkling start precedes surreal finish

By now, we presume you've had a few hours to digest the Rays' improbable 10-inning triumph Friday night.So instead of rehashing the whole bizarre body of work, how 'bout a closer look at the workmanship. Specifically, Chris Archer's.Partially lost in...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Shaquem Griffin: ‘I’m not just a feel-good story’

Shaquem Griffin: ‘I’m not just a feel-good story’

TAMPA — Shaquem Griffin wakes up knowing each day will be better than the last and barely unable to wait until tomorrow."It's just a whirlwind,'' Griffin said.On Thursday, he will walk the red carpet with his family, including his twin brother,...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Clearwater Central Catholic tops Dunedin Spring Tournament host in extra innings

Clearwater Central Catholic tops Dunedin Spring Tournament host in extra innings

DUNEDIN — After losing a four-run lead thanks to a bad sixth inning, it would have been easy for Clearwater Central Catholic to fold against Dunedin in the final of the 49th annual Dunedin Spring Tournament. But quality relief pitching from Gar...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Span, Rays top Twins in 10 innings

Span, Rays top Twins in 10 innings

ST. PETERSBURG — Roughly four hours before taking the field against his former team Friday, Rays outfielder Denard Span spoke admirably about the Minnesota Twins, their organization in general, even hometown icon Joe Mauer.But business is busin...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Lightning feels Ryan McDonagh’s impact

Lightning feels Ryan McDonagh’s impact

BRANDON — Ryan McDonagh blocks shots. He competes for pucks in the corners and wins those battles. He moves the puck up the ice well. He can join the rush. He can shoot from the blue line. He kills penalties."It was a great pickup by (Lightning...
Updated: 11 hours ago

High school scoreboard for April 20

Friday’s scoreboardSoftballSpringstead 15, Central 0
Updated: 11 hours ago
Rays journal: Miller back from DL, KK surgery successful

Rays journal: Miller back from DL, KK surgery successful

ST. PETERSBURG — For a change, the physically snake-bitten Rays got some vigor, versatility and even a veteran presence back in their lineup  when INF Brad Miller was reinstated from the 10-day disabled list.To make room, they DFA'd INF/OF...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Really, it’s time to look ahead

Really, it’s time to look ahead

BRANDON — Three things that popped into my head as the Lightning and Devils get ready to play Game 5 this afternoon at Amalie Arena.1. I’m going to do something that a hockey team in the playoffs would never do, not in a million years.I’m going to ta...
Published: 04/20/18