Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Stand Gard: Badgers have found their leader

Despite the head coach’s selflessness, second half of season has been all about him, turnaround he’s produced
Marissa Haegele
After an impressive stint as interim head coach Greg Gard was hired as the program’s head coach on March 7.

Greg Gard has been named head coach of University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team.  No more interim label, no more audition and no more need for endorsements from coaches around the country.

After 23 years as a college assistant, Gard has finally been awarded the job after all the work he’s done with the Badgers this season.

[UPDATED]: Men’s basketball: Wisconsin to reportedly offer Greg Gard long-term contract

Gard entered his time as interim head coach with the mindset that it wasn’t going to be about him. Despite those on the outside describing the second-half of the season as an audition, Gard insisted it was not.


Instead, it was about making sure all 17 of his players got the experience they deserve as part of this program.

“I said from day one that this is not about me,” Gard said, following the team’s final home game against Michigan. “I told the team, this is not an audition. I will coach them the same way, whether I have three months to coach them or 10 years. This has never been about me, it never will be. It’s about those 17 guys in that locker room.”

Men’s basketball: Badgers down Wolverines in regular season home finale

Despite what Gard has said — and he has stuck to his word throughout the second half of the season — it’s been quite clear this has been all about him from his very first game coaching against Green Bay.

Game after game, Gard has faced criticism. Fans welcomed him after his first victory, but were quick to dismiss him as a legitimate coaching candidate after he and the Badgers dropped three of their next four games, the last of which ended with a heartbreaking buzzer beater in the Kohl Center from Maryland guard Melo Trimple.

Those surrounding the program started to lose hope, but Gard wouldn’t allow it to happen.

“I told them there is no pity party here,” Gard said following the Maryland loss. “Nobody feels sorry for us.”

From there, things only got worse.

The Badgers dropped a road loss to a Northwestern team, that currently sits in 10th place in the Big Ten. This was the lowest point of the Gard era.

Something was wrong, but no one from the outside looking in really knew what it was. This team had the talent to compete, especially against a team like Northwestern, but they weren’t showing they had what it takes to return to the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament.

Was it the coaching? Was it a lack of motivation after so many losses? Were they simply not as good as Wisconsin fans expect the program to be year after year?

That answer came to light after the team’s win over then-No. 4 Michigan State, which served as the victory that turned the Badgers’ season around.

Brazzoni: Badgers beginning to thrive with nothing to lose

“Obviously numbers are one thing, but I’m happy how they’ve handled the locker room and they’re continuing to be messengers for the coaching staff,” Gard said after the Michigan State game. “Just for the whole group for how they’ve bonded and become tighter and tighter as we’ve moved forward.”

Through the coaching change, the losses, the feeling of the team losing control of this season, the problem wasn’t talent, it was the inability to come together — team chemistry.

Junior guard Bronson Koenig shared how they managed to do that following such a crushing loss.

“We just came together as a unit and told each other that we had to play for one another,” Koenig said. “I thought we had some good dialogue in the locker room after that game and let all of our emotions out. We knew that if we wanted to win, we had to do it together.”

From that moment, these Wisconsin Badgers would never be the same. The team won their next seven games in a row and 11 of their next 12, including wins over No. 19 Indiana, No. 2 Maryland and No. 8 Iowa

Men’s basketball breakdown: Badgers upset No. 8 Hawkeyes in Iowa City

Now, as it stands, the Badgers are tied for third place in the Big Ten and headed for the NCAA tournament after completing one of the biggest turnarounds in college basketball history.

Gard took a team that looked lost and hopeless, and turned them into not only Big Ten contenders, but also legitimate contenders on the national level. For that, he has been rewarded with the job opportunity he’s been working toward for the past 23 years under his mentor Bo Ryan.

But as Gard will continue to say, it was never about him and it never will be.

“These guys only have a very small spot in college on their life timeline,” Gard said. “I’ve only focused on trying to make sure these guys are having a great experience, and I think they are having a great experience.”

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