Dear college basketball recruits, if a white coach with the name Greg(g) from a program located in the Midwest is calling you, block him on your phone.
Wisconsin’s men’s basketball program is in disarray after a 37-minute audiotape was sent to the Wisconsin State Journal. The audio was secretly recorded on Feb. 19 when head coach Greg Gard, three assistant coaches, and seven seniors had a “come to Jesus” meeting.
It got ugly — and, apparently, nobody likes Gard. Here are some of the excerpts.
“Did I waste a year of my life to come back here? I was planning on coming back, having a great year and making a Final Four run, all this kind of stuff and then this crap happens. And it’s like, no one knows what to do and it’s all this rut and it’s because of a disconnect with you.” - Micah Potter.
“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.” - Nate Reuvers.
“Last year we were playing for one another, but we were also playing for you. I feel like the disconnect is we’re not playing for you right now. We’re not here to build your resume, so to speak, with all respect given.” – D’Mitrik Trice.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever talk to you again after this. We don’t even talk here. I’ll avoid talking to you here, so why would I talk to you after I leave? I can’t hold a conversation with you.” – Walt McGrory.
If it feels like drama at this program with Gard in charge is a recurring theme, you are correct. In January 2020, Kobe King – one of the few Black players that Wisconsin had on its roster that season (which is also an annual issue) — was labeled a quitter by the public, bashed by fans and alumni, and had his integrity questioned by college basketball insider Andy Katz, after the team’s second-leading scorer abruptly left the program.
Come to find out: King left because Erik Helland, the team’s former strength and conditioning coach, used the N-word around a group of players.
“I owned it. I said the word,” Helland told ESPN.
“I said, ‘Oh my God, I’m such an idiot,” Helland explained. “I never denied it. … I’m human, fallible. I made a mistake. This one cost me my job.”
The moment was the final straw for King, as he had been having issues with Gard for a while.
“I just talked to him about the way we were talked to as a team,” King told the Wisconsin State Journal. “It’s not about the negativity always, because I’ve seen that.”
Like clockwork, Wisconsin is doing damage control and has thrown their support behind Gard, although only one of the seven seniors that were in that meeting is coming back next season due to the NCAA giving players an extra year of eligibility because of the pandemic. In 2019-20, Gard was the Big Ten Coach of the Year; and in his six seasons in Madison, he’s 119-70 and has made the NCAA tournament four times. The Badgers lost in the second round of the 2021 tourney.
And keeping in the tradition of terrible coaches named Greg(g) in the sport, Greg McDermott is still at Creighton after telling his team, “Guys, we got to stick together. We need both feet in. I need everybody to stay on the plantation. I can’t have anybody leave the plantation,” last season. The school slapped him on the wrist and he was suspended for a few days, but nothing happened in terms of his job security. However, McDermott’s racism did cause him to lose out on prized recruit TyTy Washington, who decommitted from Creighton and eventually signed with Kentucky after the story broke.
“It was definitely the controversy,” Washington told The Athletic. “I really wanted to attend Creighton. It felt like the situation and the plan Coach McDermott had for me was really good. So it was kind of heartbreaking once I found out what he said. I just felt like the day and age we’re living in — a police officer just killed another young Black man for no reason — him saying something like that, it’s just not right.”
And last fall we found out that former Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall could be a violent lunatic after it was alleged that he choked one of his assistants, punched a player, body-slammed another, and made fun of a third athlete’s Native American heritage. After a lengthy investigation, Marshall resigned and agreed to a contract settlement of $7.75 million.
Bad behavior by white coaches is not only tolerated in college basketball, it also pays well and usually allows you to keep your job (but pays well even when you don’t, in Marshall’s case). And as the world is opening back up as coaches are on the road recruiting, very soon Greg Gard is going to sit in front of a player and his family and deliver his pitch. He’ll more than likely address the situation, apologize, and talk about how he’s learned and changed. And at that point, a teenager will have to make a difficult decision all because the adults in Wisconsin wouldn’t just do the right thing and fire him.