Bo Knows

first_imgBRYAN FAUST/Herald photoBo Ryan knows quite a bit.Bo knows basketball, being in his 23rd year crouching like Spider Man on the sidelines by the bench of a college basketball team.Bo knows ball control, annually coaching teams that cough up the ball so infrequently you’d think there was Velcro attached to the guards’ hands, and they always rank highly in assist-to-turnover ratio.Bo knows Pennsylvania. Having grown up in the small town of Chester, located a mere bounce pass away from Philadelphia, Ryan is quick to recall the experiences, lessons and people — nay, characters — met in his home state.At times, it seems as if the only thing Bo might not know is a zone defense — as his teams play man-to-man as if it were the only thing legal — but even that would be false, as he constantly asserts that one of the first lessons he teaches in his basketball classes is that “man-to-man defense is based on zone principles.”But more than anything, Bo knows winning. Ryan is the all-time winningest coach in Division III basketball (353-76 record), taking home four national titles while coaching at UW-Platteville, creating the Celtics of D-III in southwest Wisconsin. Ryan then guided the Badgers to regular-season Big Ten titles in each of his first two seasons in Madtown and has already registered the fourth-most wins of any coach in UW history (112). “Bo has had such a great coaching career. I don’t care if it’s Division-III, Wisconsin-Milwaukee or now at the University of Wisconsin, he can just flat-out coach and he does it the right way,” said Iowa head coach Steve Alford of his conference colleague who hasn’t suffered a losing season since his very first year, 1984-85. “From day one in his coaching career, he’s done it the right way and won a lot of games as proof that he knows what he’s doing.”And now, Ryan is on the verge of yet another milestone that exemplifies his success in basketball, needing only five more wins to become the 116th coach to register 500 career wins. If Wisconsin were to win their first five games — all very winnable contests — Ryan would reach the mark on Nov. 24 against Missouri State at the Kohl Center.”Everywhere he’s been, he’s been highly successful, and I think that’s going to continue … I didn’t know about the 500 wins, though,” said Michigan head coach Tommy Amaker. Made apparent by Amaker, for all the success and championships, Ryan remains a relative unknown on the national radar, as coaches like Tom Izzo, Thad Matta, Bruce Weber and Alford all resonate more than the man who has the highest winning percentage of anyone who has coached for 20 years or more.”Bo probably hasn’t gotten the respect that he deserves across the country,” Penn State head coach Ed DeChellis related. “That’s a lot of wins, a lot of years of doing it and doing it the right way.”Even college basketball icon Dick Vitale admits that the credit Ryan receives doesn’t match up with the depth of his résumé, calling UW’s lead man “one of the unsung heroes of the coaching profession.”Who knows Bo?So, who exactly is Bo Ryan? If you talk to his players, they’ll tell you he is a firm, consistent court commander that demands excellence in all walks of practice and game play, from running Ryan’s patented Swing Offense, to making sure the team huddles up correctly.”Coach treats everybody the same. Doesn’t matter if you’re Alando Tucker, Tanner Bronson or the manager; if you’re doing your job wrong, he’s going to get on you,” said UW redshirt freshman guard Mickey Perry.If you ask the media, however, you would hear that he is a wily, elusive quote that, while often entertaining with anecdotes, avoids making headline statements like homecoming queens avoid Dungeons & Dragons enthusiasts.Speak to his barber, and you’ll hear about how Ryan is most chatty about any subject that isn’t basketball, especially the Keystone State.Trade words with Ryan’s father, Butch, and you’ll hear about how Ryan is the hardest-working, blue-collar coach he’s ever seen … after himself.But there is one thing that you’ll hear from anyone who has anything to say about Ryan: Anyone who knows anything about him has the utmost respect for the man. Bo knows respectWhile Ryan might not get the ESPN spotlights and hype, coaches around the nation know all about the coach’s accomplishments.”I think people in the know recognize Bo is a terrific guy and a terrific coach,” Michigan head coach Tommy Amaker said. “I think the world of him.””I think for me, the ultimate compliment as coach is to have the respect of your peers, and Bo Ryan’s got that with the other 10 coaches in our league,” Minnesota head coach Dan Monson said. “Everybody knows what a job he’s done since he’s been there, and everybody knows what kind of game you’re in for when you play Wisconsin. That’s all I would worry about if I were him, and I bet that’s where he’s at.”The respect for Ryan comes from his classical, no-nonsense approach to the game and to how he interacts with his players. His message is clear, concise and above all else, consistent: Take care of the ball, play defense and wait for the open shot. “I think he’s old-school,” Monson said. “That’s the word I would use to describe him. He’s not about the fame or fortune or anything else, he’s just a good old basketball coach who works hard and prepares his team.” “With Bo Ryan, nothing changes. His system is the same, he is never going to change anything whether we are ranked No. 1 or not ranked at all,” sophomore forward Marcus Landry said.The respect for Ryan stems from many sources. Many look at the way he came up in through the coaching ranks, working his way up through D-III and later then Division-I unknown UW-Milwaukee before finally earning a Big Ten job.”What’s impressive about Bo is that he’s done it at different levels and worked his way up,” DeChellis said. “It’s very, very impressive. He’s a great basketball coach and deserves all the accolades we can give him. What he’s done on the national level is just unbelievable.””I’ve always known who Bo Ryan is, and I think when you look at coaches, and I mean true coaches, he to me is what a coach should be,” Matta, Ohio State’s heralded sideline stomper, said. “I have great respect for what he’s done. I love the fact that he started as an assistant at Wisconsin, then went to Platteville, then to Milwaukee and then back to Wisconsin — it just seems he’s done it the right way.”Others, however, draw their respect from Ryan’s lengthy list of accomplishments over the course of his career. Current players need merely look at how Ryan has done at Wisconsin to understand that the coach understands exactly what he is talking about. “We buy into what he’s saying, and that is out of respect,” sophomore forward Joe Krabbenhoft said. “What he’s done in the past, his record, all those statistics that he never talks about but we know … and so we respect that.””All his players that play for him, respect him, period,” said Tucker, UW’s star forward. “I think for him, the respect that he has from every player on the team is unmatched. You can never hear anything bad be said about Coach Ryan.”Bo knows player developmentAs he approaches 500 wins, Ryan will likely credit the landmark achievement to all of the players and teams he has worked with, which is entirely true. However, many of those very same players tribute Ryan for making them the players they were and are.”He has been incredible,” said former walk-on Kevin Gullikson, now on scholarship after a strong freshman year. “There is no way that I could have learned as much as I have under any other coach.””He’s been a real big part of the player I’ve become,” senior point guard Kammron Taylor said. “I wasn’t used to that from a coach; somebody in your ear every day. Expecting so much from you every day and I really feel like he’s helped not only on the basketball court, but in the classroom. He cares about how you do on the court, but off the court as well.”Perhaps no one player has benefited more from the tutelage of Ryan than Taylor, who has transformed from a wild, turnover-prone but electric shooting guard into a poised floor leader at point, still capable of taking over a game when necessary as one of the nation’s most clutch performers.”My freshman year, he was on me all the time, and I didn’t even play my freshman year,” Taylor said. “The older you get, the more you realize if he sees something in a guy, he’s going to try and get it out of you if you can’t get it out yourself.”He’s been on me for four years as a reason,” Taylor continued. “He’s trying to get something out of me, and he’s going to stay on me until he gets every last bit of it out.”last_img

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