The Badgers just finished off an upset of the 5th seeded Florida State Seminoles in the first round of the 2009 NCAA Men’s Tournament. Outside of the game obviously being phenomenal to watch, it also sort of summed up Bo Ryan’s coaching career to me, especially at the University of Wisconsin.
The Badgers were down by as much as 12 in this game, losing 31-19 at half. After a first twenty minutes that saw Wisconsin shoot the ball poorly, only scoring 19 points, the Badgers found themselves being embarrassed heading into the locker-room. The Badgers had been exposed. Florida just featured better athletes, something the Badgers have come to expect to see from opposing teams.
Instead of panicking and continuing to be blown out by a heavily favored Seminole team, Bo Ryan gave his team a halftime speech that proved to be exactly what his club needed. Ryan said, “20 minutes is guaranteed to us and nothing after that,” he told his shell-shocked players that they should take advantage of those 20 minutes and hustle after every loose ball, but more importantly he told them to have fun, and smile.
Those words pushed exactly the right button as his club managed to go out there and cut into that twelve point deficit right away, forcing an overtime period and eventually putting away the 5th seeded Seminoles. This seems to be a re-occurring theme with Ryan and his teams year after year. Without top-tier recruits, he always finds a way to put his team in position to win every game.
Look at the NBA talent that Wisconsin has produced during Bo Ryan’s tenure with the school. Ryan has been with the Badgers since 2001. Between the years of 2001 and the most recent NBA Draft, Wisconsin has produced just two NBA draft picks. Yes I said only two. Devin Harris was the 5th pick in round one of the 2004 NBA Draft, and Alando Tucker was chosen with 29th overall selection of the first round in 2007. Both had great careers at Wisconsin, but only Devin Harris is making a name for himself at the next level.
Even without the talented players that go through places like North Carolina, Kansas, Duke and Michigan State, the Badgers continue to contend year in and year out in the Big Ten, never finishing lower than fourth in the conference during Bo Ryan’s time leading the Badgers basketball team.
Let’s stop and compare two coaches for a minute (during seasons 2001-2009):
Winning %: .687
Conference titles: 0
Winning %: .727
Conference titles: 2