After a victory over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi last week, Wisconsin basketball head coach Bo Ryan announced his immediate retirement, stunning everybody in attendance.
In June, the 67-year-old Ryan said that he planned to retire after the season, though he said later he might continue coaching. The most popular theory to explain Ryan’s abrupt retirement was that he did so to help out longtime assistant Greg Gard, who was named interim coach.
As this theory goes, Ryan wanted to turn the team over to Gard this summer, but athletic director Barry Alvarez wasn’t convinced, and then Gard’s father began suffering from brain cancer. The midseason retirement (the theory goes) gives Gard a head start in convincing Alvarez that he’s the man for the job long-term. If that’s what Ryan was trying to do, he accomplished his goal, but he went about it in a very strange way.
In his retirement announcement—after which he took no questions—Ryan said that he and Alvarez had decided together that he should step away at the end of the semester, so as to minimize the disruption. But in an interview yesterday with the Wisconsin State Journal, Alvarez “said he wasn’t sure” when conversations about Ryan’s end date began.
Only a few hours before the game against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi were things finalized, and Ryan brought not one but two attorneys to the meeting:
It wasn’t until Tuesday afternoon, just a few hours before the game, the situation had moved to end-game mode. Alvarez, along with deputy AD Walter Dickey and senior associate AD Justin Doherty, met with Ryan and two of his attorneys at Ryan’s condominium.
“(Ryan) said he was ready,” Alvarez said, “and felt this was the right time. And we walked through everything.”
If sudden retirement was for Gard’s benefit, he doesn’t seem to have been in on the plan. The State Journal reports that Gard wasn’t informed until just a few hours before the retirement, making his preparations (including a search for a new assistant coach) much more difficult.
Alvarez and Ryan’s story—that Ryan’s retirement was hasty and abrupt because Ryan’s decision to retire was hasty and abrupt—may well be the true one, but it sure seems like something else is going on here.
Photo via AP; h/t Paul