A Feb. 19 meeting between the seven seniors on the 2020-21 Wisconsin men's basketball team, head coach Greg Gard and his coaching staff was secretly recorded and sent to the Wisconsin State Journal.
"I just feel like, coach, we don't have a relationship," starter Nate Reuvers said on the recording, per Jim Polzin of the Wisconsin State Journal. "In my mind, it's too late for that. I personally don't think or feel like you care about our future aspirations. I can't talk to you. I just don't want to talk to you. After this, coach, I don't know what type of relationship we're going to have, if we have one."
On Tuesday, Gard and Wisconsin's athletic director Barry Alvarez responded to the situation:
Polzin reported that the 37-minute audio file was sent to the newspaper via an anonymous email.
The general theme of the meeting echoed Reuvers' comments, that the players didn't feel like Gard was behind them, that he cultivated a culture where coaches and players pointed fingers rather than taking accountability and that some players felt like they couldn't even speak to Gard.
"Coaches have to be able to respond to adversity, just like players do," one of Wisconsin's seniors told Polzin. "They have to try different things, and that's what coach Gard did. Is it something that us players reacted well to? No. And that's why we confronted him about it."
But that same player said he felt the meeting was productive.
"[Gard] sat there, he listened and there was not one dry eye in the entire room at the end of everything," he said. "The biggest thing that he did at the end was he apologized again and he was in tears and he said, 'It’s not your fault, it's my fault.'"
Just one of the players, Brad Davison, is returning next year (the senior class was granted an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic). Reuvers, Aleem Ford, Micah Potter and D’Mitrik Trice are attempting to turn pro, while Trevor Anderson (Valparaiso) and Walt McGrory (South Dakota) transferred to different schools.
Assistant coach Alando Tucker was also replaced with another former Badgers player, Sharif Chambliss, on Gard's staff.
Davison said he was disappointed that the edited conversation was made public, calling the locker room environment a "sanctuary."
"Every locker room that you are in, you are with individuals that you've cried with, that you've bled with, that you've sweat with and that you've worked with," he said. "When you have tough conversations, the reason why you have tough conversations in the locker room is because you care for the people in the locker room and because you love them and want what's best for them and ultimately you want to grow with them."