Were you surprised by Bo Ryan's sudden retirement?
Drew Hamm: I am certainly surprised at the timing of the announcement, but not at him actually retiring. This obviously has nothing to do with anything, but as a fan (which is the least taxing job surrounding the Wisconsin basketball team), I was emotionally exhausted heading into this season. Two runaway train trips to the Final Four in a row left me unwilling, or unable, to muster much excitement for this year. Maybe it was the fact I knew the Badgers couldn't possibly reach those heights with this team. Maybe it was the fact that the Badgers possibly blew their best shot at a National Championship in my lifetime. Maybe I was worried that the Badgers would never get there again. Whatever it was, I'm not surprised Bo Ryan decided to retire this year. He's probably infinity times more exhausted than me.
Phil Mitten: Yeah, I was taken by surprise in the way it went down, on a Tuesday night after beating a terrible team, but I always thought he might do something like this to ensure Greg Gard got a shot at the job.
What's your favorite Bo Ryan moment/quote?
Looking back on UW's first 12 games
Part one of our roundtable breaks down the Badgers' season through 12 games.
Drew: Say what you will about Ryan, but the man is a rapid-fire quote machine. His press conferences must have been so refreshing for journalists. He has countless quotes that I'm sure the other guys will touch on, but my favorite Bo Ryan moment is a little one that almost no one saw, I'm sure.
For my birthday one year, my ex-girlfriend got me tickets to see my Phillies play the Brewers at Miller Park. This was back when the Phillies and Brewers were good, so it was a good gift. Ryan, being from Chester, Pa., also happened to be in attendance. We had really good seats, right behind the Phillies dugout, and Ryan was one section over. Before the game, he was talking to Charlie Manuel, then the manager of the Phillies, and I could barely contain my excitement. Ryan had been living in Wisconsin for so long, yet he still held on to his roots and, it seemed to me, call both places home. As someone who was following that exact same path (in terms of places lived, not basketball prowess possessed) I felt an even stronger connection to him than just "fan to coach." I didn't even go over and talk to Ryan because I was so nervous. I don't know, this seems kind of sappy as I write it, but it was a cool feeling for me. Anyways, that ex-girlfriend eventually became my wife. She'll hate that I called her "my ex" online.
Phil: My favorite Bo move is when he persistently calls to a referee (who's probably ignoring him because he expects to get chewed out) and when the ref finally looks, Bo makes one of his patented "funny guy" faces and makes a joke about a call or something a player just did. He did it the other night against Milwaukee and it made my day. Those expressions are world-class, never to be duplicated; the goofy quotes and meandering stories too numerous.
(This is probably the right time to thank him for coaching me up at one of his Platteville basketball camps back in the day, making me the beacon of fundamentals I am today in the Madison city leagues.)
What will Greg Gard do with this current Wisconsin team?
Drew: Gard has a lot of work to do with this year's team (see: shooting woes, defensive shortcomings, not backup guards). Hopefully this abrupt reshuffling of the deck will wake everyone up and "Bo Ryan's Last Team" will play with a little more pride for their former coach. If Gard can coach this team to an NCAA Tournament berth, he definitely deserves to have the interim tag removed from his job description for next year.
Phil: Maintain continuity primarily. Player after player spoke to how Gard is just like Coach Ryan. I think we might see a slight change in the allotment of minutes among some of the players, which I'm very intrigued by. Offensively, reverting to some Swing elements might help the team at times, but that doesn't seem to be Gard's M.O. as a forward thinker (plus he doesn't have the right guards for it). It will be awfully tough to finish above .500 in Big Ten play given the situation. If Gard finishes the year with a winning record, I'd say it was a pleasant surprise.
Where do you see the upcoming coaching search going in terms of candidates, and where do you see Gard in all of this?
Drew: Lotta names being thrown around on the internet in the last few days as potential head coaches for the Badgers. Personally I think Barry Alvarez shouldn't limit his search to just living coaches or even basketball coaches. Take a meeting with John Wooden, see if he'd like to leave Westwood and come up to Madison. Is Mark Richt dead set on staying at the fire in a trash can surrounded by hobos that is the Miami football program? Maybe not if Alvarez offers him the hoops job at Wisconsin! If those two pass, I think UNI's Ben Jacobson is an intriguing rising star that could help mine the fertile recruiting grounds of *checks where Jacobson is from* North Dakota? Criminy! Anyways, Jacobson has proven he can do a lot with a little at UNI and that's a coaching trait that would play well at UW.
Phil: This process will be fascinating because it really becomes a story about Barry Alvarez and what he hopes is his last major hire as athletic director. Seems like Alvarez considers Gard a great safety net if he cannot convince Tony Bennett to come home. Alvarez might have another big name in his head as his second choice or Gard might even be Barry's second choice, I don't know. I do think he wants this hire to solidify his legacy, so he's going to take a couple shots at the end zone before he hires Gard. Gard cannot have a losing record in the Big Ten if he wants to come away with the job. I'm guessing an NCAA Tournament bid is required.