MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan retired after one last victory with the Badgers on Tuesday night, ending a successful run at the school and handing the program over to assistant Greg Gard.
Ryan, who turns 68 on Sunday, said in June this would be his last season, and then left the door open for a return at a charity golf event in August. But with the Badgers off to a slow start this year, he said he decided now was the time to step away.
Ryan said the decision was “months in the making,” and he had several talks with athletic director Barry Alvarez.
“I brought this up to Barry back in April. He advised me to take some time to think it over and I appreciated that,” Ryan said in a school release sent out after a 64-49 victory over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
“But in recent weeks, I have come to the conclusion that now is the right time for me to retire and for Greg Gard to have the opportunity to coach the team for the remainder of the season. I discussed this with Barry and I appreciate him giving me the space to make this decision.”
Ryan coached Wisconsin to a school-record 36 wins last season and a loss in the national championship to Duke. The Badgers handed Kentucky its first loss of the season with a victory in the national semifinals.
Ryan was in his 15th season at the school. He finishes with a school-record 364 wins and seven Big Ten titles.
He said it was extremely hard telling his players of the decision.
“It is so emotional right now, and I’m trying to hold this together,” Ryan said at his postgame press conference.
Ryan did not take questions after his announcement, saying he had to go meet with some of the staff because he didn’t want to inform them prior to the game.
The development with Ryan seemed to take the players by surprise, but forward Nigel Hayes said he noticed something different about the coach before the victory over the Islanders.
Hayes said never makes eye contact with Ryan as the lineup is announced. But Tuesday night he did.
“It was like the saddest look I’ve ever seen him have,” Hayes said. “I guess now it makes sense why he looked like that.”
“We’ve got to remember he’s an old guy,” Hayes also said. “He’s been yelling and screaming for a long time. That takes a toll on your health.”
Alvarez said he will evaluate how Gard works with the team and then make a decision at the end of the year on what the school wants to do.
“I’ve never had more than a one-year contract in my entire career, so for me it’s never been about the pressure in that way,” said Gard, who recently turned 45. “For me, it’s about putting these young men in the best position to have success as student athletes.”