Say It Ain’t So, Bo: What The Wisconsin Legend’s Departure Means For College Basketball

Bo Ryan’s sudden retirement announcement sent shockwaves through the basketball world. It’s a huge deal, with ripple effects spreading across the landscape.

Here’s what it means the major players:

For Wisconsin’s program

Well, for now it means Greg Gard is in charge. Unlike Steve Spurrier, who up and left his duties as South Carolina football coach seemingly to lockdown a convenient daily tee time, Ryan’s departure feels like it has an actual purpose. Rather than pass the baton after a farewell tour through the Big Ten to whomever the higher-ups in Madison preferred, Bo guarantees that his right hand man gets at least a shot at retaining the job in the years to come.

For Tony Bennett

“Whomever the higher-ups in Madison preferred” was basically a veiled way of saying MAYBE TONY BENNETT. The UVA head coach was a Badgers assistant back when his father coached there in the late 1990’s. Bennett played his college ball for the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

While he certainly has some connection to the school and the state, I personally find it hard to believe he’d give up what he’s built in Charlottesville for Bo Ryan’s leftovers in Madison. Virginia is now considered among the class of the ACC, arguably the best conference in America (and if it is an argument, it’s a short one).

Unless the Badgers come calling with a pile of football money, I just don’t see why Bennett would leave a great job at Virginia to re-build Wisconsin (and freeze his ass off).

For Bo Ryan’s Legacy

I find the leaving mid-season decision to be an odd one, but I can’t speak on behalf of Bo Ryan’s mindset or physical health. It’s an odd capper to an otherwise illustrious career.

Ryan coached the Badgers for 15 full seasons. In that time, they reached 15 NCAA Tournaments, 7 Sweet Sixteens, 3 Elite Eights and 2 Final Fours.

In the 50 years prior to Ryan’s tenure, Wisconsin reached 5 NCAA Tournaments and one Final Four.

Read those two sentences again.

He won’t have the longevity of Coach K or Boeheim or his contemporaries, but in shorter tenures and at a variety of levels, Bo Ryan could coach basketball.

For Wisconsin, this season

And now he leaves behind a very puzzling team this season. Count me among the people befuddled by their slow start. Some combination of Bo’s impending departure, championship loss hangover, and “not having Frank Kaminsky anymore” disease left the Badgers looking out of sorts.

Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig were supposed to pick up the torch and carry on, making a run at the Big Ten title. Both are averaging 15 points per game, but the young talent around them hasn’t stepped up. They’ll need to grow into their roles sooner rather than later, or they’ll find themselves on the wrong side of the bubble.

For College Basketball

I don’t know the answer to this one. Bo Ryan was one of the best characters in the game. But the game was changing.

Sure, he could still win, but even last year with Kaminsky and Sam Dekker at his disposal, Ryan essentially tossed his patented Swing Offense out the window and found other ways to score. Maybe the game changed too fast for Bo Ryan:

For Me

Ah yes, let’s look at the major players affected here. Me.

When I saw the news, I was taken aback. I needed to talk to someone about it. It was nearing midnight so I could only alert someone I was sure would answer with something other than “Whatever, I was asleep.”

But I don’t have that many friends who obsess over college basketball. I have a lot of friends who love the NBA and would gladly be woken to hear about a minor Hornets-Jazz trade.

Bo Ryan and his style of play are the reason many people prefer to stay away from the college game.

I couldn’t be more the opposite. Bo was passionate. Bo was hard nosed. Bo preached defense and benched players for taking bad shots. Bo installed and ran an offense that was too patient, too complex, and too damn beautiful to exist in a 24-second shot clock world.

Bo Ryan made college basketball better and I will miss him.

For Us

Hopefully, not for long though, because for all of us, the best case scenario is Bo Ryan or his agent already fielding calls from TV networks. I don’t care if it’s ESPN or CBS or Turner, I want Bo Ryan and his thick Philly accent on my TV screen in March. I’ll take him in any capacity. I’d take Bo as a color commentator. I’ll take him in a studio. I’d settle for the producers giving Bo Ryan two uninterrupted minutes to scream about something during the halftime of games on TruTV in March.

Actually, wait. That’s definitely how I want to now experience Bo Ryan.

Please someone make this happen. I’m not yet ready for Bo to go.


Header Image via Harry How/Getty Images

Shane McNichol is the founder, editor, and writer at He has also contributed to, Rush The Court, and Follow him on Twitter @OnTheShaneTrain. If you have any suggestions, tips, ideas, or questions, email them to

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