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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Legendary former head coach Bo Ryan gets inducted into Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame

Ryan earns bid for high honor, storied career in Badger State
Joey Reuteman
Bo Ryan. The Badger Herald archives.

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2024 was announced April 6 and, for the first time since 1964, the list included a member of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Sixty years later UW–Madison has put its third coach or player into basketball’s most prestigious hall of fame, with 15-year head coach Bo Ryan joining former UW–Madison player and coach Harold “Bud” Foster and coach Walter Meanwell as the only Badgers to receive the honor.

Joining Ryan in the Class of 2024 are Chauncey Billups, Vince Carter and Jerry West — who was inducted as a contributor to the sport of basketball and became the first player to be enshrined as a player and a contributor — as part of a 13-person group.

Ryan stands as the winningest coach in Badgers men’s basketball history, a category he leads by 99 victories. In 494 games coached, Ryan compiled an astonishing 364-130 record, placing him second all-time in win-loss percentage (.737) among Wisconsin Men’s Basketball coaches.


As former Athletic Director and head football coach Barry Alvarez said during Ryan’s retirement press conference, “He’s put our basketball program on the map.”

Ryan inherited a Badger program that was just one year removed from a Final Four appearance, but he brought the UW–Madison men’s basketball to unparalleled success. In 2001 to 2002 — his first season as head coach — the Badgers earned a share of the Big Ten regular season title for the first time since 1947. His efforts were rewarded with Big Ten Coach of the Year honors, becoming the first Badger to obtain the accolade.

He was also incredibly successful in postseason play — making the NCAA Tournament in all 14 seasons as the Badgers’ head coach and reaching the second weekend a staggering seven times. At UW–Madison, Ryan had an all-time NCAA Tournament record of 25-14.

Most notably, Ryan spearheaded the iconic 2013 to 2014 and 2014 to 2015 teams that reached the Final Four and National Championship Game, respectively.

The 2015 run was highlighted by one of the more memorable upsets in college basketball history, when UW–Madison took down the then 38-0 University of Kentucky Wildcats team that was led by Karl Anthony-Towns, Devin Booker and Trey Lyles, among many other future NBA players to book a spot in the National Championship game.

Instead, a UW–Madison group coached by Ryan shut down what could have been the first undefeated college basketball season since 1975 to 1976.

Ryan was also critical in establishing the culture and identity of the men’s basketball program, on and off the court, which has carried over into the Greg Gard era.

Ryan held his teams to a standard of excellence, predicated on defense and minimizing turnovers.

During an interview Ryan did on ESPN Madison with Ben Brust — who played under Ryan from 2010 to 2014 — the pair joked about how Ryan called Brust the worst defender he had ever seen. Ryan went on to joke about how Brust wasn’t the first person he had told that to, recalling back to his days of coaching junior high.

In 11 of his 14 seasons at the helm, Ryan coached UW–Madison into the top-12 scoring defenses in the country — topping the nation twice in that span.

As for turnovers? None of Ryan’s final six teams committed more than 9.5 turnovers per game — averaging 8.4 turnovers during that stretch. Ryan kept his answer simple for how he got his team to take such good care of the basketball.

Shortly after Ryan’s induction, Jay Bilas recalled a statement Ryan had told him years ago.

“In coaching, it’s not what you say, it’s what you accept,” Ryan said. “And we don’t accept turnovers.”

While Ryan’s accomplishments as a Badger were incredible in their own right, it’s impossible to ignore his excellence at previous coaching stops.

Prior to landing Wisconsin’s head coaching gig, Ryan spent 15 seasons at UW–Platteville, turning around a program that just endured their worst season as a program into a national powerhouse at the Division III level.

He led the Pioneers to four national championships during the 1990s — two of which capped off undefeated seasons — and went 266-26 (.908) during the decade. This stretch also included most of Platteville’s 96 consecutive home regular season wins, which ended in 2000, the year after he left.

It was at Platteville where Ryan perfected his defense, setting the single-season scoring defense record at the Division III level at 47.5 points per game — a record that still stands 27 years later.

After 15 incredible seasons at Platteville, Ryan got the bump up to Division I, landing the head coaching gig at the UW–Milwaukee. Like at Platteville, Ryan inherited a struggling program, with the Panthers having endured six consecutive losing seasons before making the coaching change.

Ryan delivered back-to-back winning seasons before taking Wisconsin’s head coaching job and set Milwaukee’s basketball program up for his successor, Bruce Pearl.

His college coaching resume is without a doubt worthy of enshrinement, boasting a ridiculous 747-233 (.762) record at the NCAA level with a lasting legacy as one of the best coaches the state of Wisconsin has ever seen.

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