Longtime Bo Ryan assistant Gary Close will not return to the Wisconsin men's basketball team for the 2016-17 season, the school announced Wednesday morning. Close has spent the last 13 seasons with the Badgers. Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first reported Close's resignation Tuesday night.
A 29-year coaching veteran at the college level, Close did not say what he will do next, but indicated to Potrykus that a desire to spend more time with his family played a large role in his decision.
"Earlier this week I informed Coach Gard that I have made the difficult decision to resign my position as assistant coach to pursue other opportunities," Close said in a release from UW. "It was an honor and a privilege to have coached at the University of Wisconsin.
"Being an assistant coach at the Division I level is an increasingly demanding position," Close said in a statement. "While I plan to keep basketball a part of my future plans, I do want my next professional stop to provide me with greater flexibility to spend more quality time with my wife and two growing children."
Though many expected the UW coaching staff to remain intact after a successful end to Greg Gard's first season at the helm, Zach Miller from BadgerBlitz.com hinted that Gard and Close did not always see eye-to-eye this past season, opening the door for the change.
Close was referred to as the "shot doctor" for many years under Ryan. Prior to arriving at Wisconsin, Close had been coaching at a high school in Iowa after stints at Stanford (three years) and Iowa (13 years) assisting Tom Davis. Though recruiting was not necessarily a strength for Close, he was the primary recruiter for the Badgers in the state of Iowa. As such, he was responsible for reeling in Ethan Happ from the Quad Cities area, Jarrod Uthoff, and Jason Bohannon among others.
Wisconsin already filled one coaching vacancy in December when Gard brought back Howard Moore to replace him as a third assistant. Moore was immediately a vocal presence on the sidelines, eager to display his passion for the university.
Close, on the other hand, has successfully stayed out of the limelight for the most part. This despite being an integral part of the program's player development and teaching for over a decade.
The new vacancy at Wisconsin should be a popular opportunity in coaching circles. Recently dismissed head coach Rob Jeter has been mentioned as a potential candidate to replace Close, as has Lindenwood (Div. II) University head coach Lance Randall, a Beloit College alum who has coached extensively in the state. Maybe Gard will take a look another in-state success story and make a run at UW-Whitewater's Pat Miller.
But don't count out the allure of Gard hiring his younger brother, Jeff, who is currently the head coach at UW-Platteville.
Several former Badgers who are now in the coaching ranks, like Joe Krabbenhoft (South Dakota State), Freddie Owens (Holy Cross), Sharif Chambliss (formerly of Milwaukee) and perhaps even Tracy Webster (California) will likely be mentioned during the hiring process too.
Close's complete comments and the full release from Wisconsin are below.
MADISON, Wis. - Longtime assistant coach Gary Close announced his resignation from the Wisconsin Men's Basketball staff on Wednesday to pursue other professional opportunities.
"Earlier this week I informed Coach Gard that I have made the difficult decision to resign my position as assistant coach to pursue other opportunities. It was an honor and a privilege to have coached at the University of Wisconsin.
"Being an assistant coach at the Division I level is an increasingly demanding position," Close said in a statement. "While I plan to keep basketball a part of my future plans, I do want my next professional stop to provide me with greater flexibility to spend more quality time with my wife and two growing children.
"Whatever we choose as our next chapter, it will be difficult to match the experiences we've had over the past 13 years. I want to thank Bo Ryan for giving me the opportunity to be part of this tremendous run here. I want to thank the other coaches and men's basketball staff, as well as the athletic department support staff, and especially all the loyal Badger fans who have been so supportive of me and my family over the years. This support is what makes the University of Wisconsin and Madison such a unique and special place.
"Finally and most importantly, I want to say thank you to all those terrific players whose hard work and dedication over the years has brought so much joy to me, my family and this community. From the All-Americans to the walk-ons, each and every one played an important part in the success of this program and to our lives. To have had the opportunity to help them in a small way, chase their dreams and achieve their goals, is an experience I will always treasure, one filled with moments that I can look back on with great satisfaction and pride.
"As our life takes a different course, we are looking forward to closely following Wisconsin athletics, especially the men's basketball team. They are a terrific group of young men with a very bright future. It should be an exciting 2016-17 season, one I know will receive the usual incredible support from the countless, devoted Badger fans across this great state and country.
"Thank you and On, Wisconsin!"
"On behalf of the team and staff, I want to thank Gary for his dedication to the Wisconsin basketball program," head coach Greg Gard said. "He has been a consistent piece of our success over the last 13 years and we all wish him well with his next endeavor."
Having spent the last 13 seasons coaching at Wisconsin, Close is a 29-year veteran of Division I basketball. During his time in Madison, the Badgers made the NCAA tournament all 13 years, including back-to-back Final Four appearances in 2014 and 2015, and the national championship game in 2015 for the first time at UW since 1941. Close's tenure at UW included two Big Ten regular season championships and three Big Ten tournament titles.