MADISON -- Wisconsin men's basketball head coach Bo Ryan comically shot down any rumors about stepping down due to health concerns and strongly advocated for associate head coach Greg Gard in his first media appearance since announcing his retirement at season’s end.
Ryan, 67, started the press conference off with a touch of humor, slowly gaiting toward reporters gathered in the Kohl Center with the assistance of a walker, which he said was to play off reports of him retiring due to health concerns.
"For all those people that said things about my health and everything else," he said, "that’s why I brought the cane."
Jokes aside, Ryan explained the reason for his retirement was a culmination of different things which all led to his eventual decision to step down.
"It’s not that the hours are all that, but it is so consuming now with your time, with camps and speaking," Ryan said.
The 14-year coach at Wisconsin added that his decision to retire was "gradual" and came over time, saying it was not just a "boom" decision.
In his initial announcement, Ryan advocated for Gard, his longtime assistant, to take over as the next Badgers head coach. Ryan elaborated on that preference Tuesday.
"It’s not even something that’s debatable right now," Ryan said of hiring Gard. "Greg’s mind is better than anybody’s I’ve been around when it comes to [offense, scouting, personnel]."
"That’s not for me to decide," Gard said of the possibility that he succeeds Ryan. "I think I’ve been very transparent. The numbers speak for themselves in terms of where I’ve been and what we’ve been able to accomplish. From that standpoint, that’s not for me to answer. The biggest thing is, I’ve always tried to do the best with the given situation we’re in, try to make the most of every day that we’ve had and really not get caught up in what the future’s going to hold."
One large question hanging over Ryan and the Badgers is whether the coaching change will affect recruiting. Both Ryan and Gard emphasized that, even though the head man will change, their recruiting strategy will not.
"We want people to come to Wisconsin for Wisconsin," Ryan said. "I've never said to anybody at any time, 'The reason that young men came to Wisconsin was only because of me.' Never said that or hinted at that."
"I don't think it has as big an impact as everybody thinks, and for these reasons," Gard added. "When we recruit, we've always recruited to the place more so than the individual. And what I mean by that, I've always talked about [Madison] as an institution, how it is academically, how it is socially, what it can do for you and how the degree can help you beyond here and when you're done."
With July rolling around and its important recruiting evaluations approach, Ryan voiced his plans to get back to business as usual.
"I plan on being out there in July and watching people," Ryan said. "I passed my [compliance] test. I got one wrong and was disappointed about that." Ryan wouldn't say what the question was, but did mention he and another coach who got the same question wrong are, in classic Bo Ryan fashion, petitioning the NCAA.
Wisconsin is in a position to only have one or two scholarships available for the 2016 class considering Jordan Smith being the lone graduating senior and Nigel Hayes' looming decision whether to enter the NBA draft or return for his senior season. Ryan said that "did play a part" in the timing of his decision, as well.
Pressed for time with a team practice coming up, Gard said he just didn't have the time to explain how much he's learned from Ryan during their long career together, but he was able to offer a snapshot.
"I think just being able to communicate with people, relationships, those types of things," Gard said. "The biggest thing, I think is that you have to be yourself. There's only one Bo Ryan, and whoever the next coach is here isn't Bo Ryan and shouldn't be someone that tries to imitate him. I think I've taken methods, ideas, ideology, philosophies from him, but at the same time you have be comfortable in who you are and coach to your own personality."
When asked if he's leaving the door open to changing his mind, Ryan might have left a slight, slight crack.
"I have a five-year contract," Ryan said. "How open is that? But I just have to be fair to the institution and the people that are here, in that, 'You know guys? I might just step back." And I didn't realize it was that big a deal to some people."
Any concerns about Ryan’s fire subsiding in his final season were also quickly squashed.
"This isn't going to be some swan song," Ryan said.
Ryan then finished talking with the media, the microphones were turned off and the recorders were stopped. He excused himself and started walking -- no cane necessary -- toward the Nicholas Johnson Pavilion.
Bo Ryan still had a team to coach.