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Berry Tramel

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Wisconsin's Bo Ryan: A heck of a coach, even if he resents OKC media

by Berry Tramel Modified: March 31, 2014 at 5:40 pm •  Published: March 31, 2014
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Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan argues a call during the first half against Baylor in an NCAA men's college basketball tournament regional semifinal, Thursday, March 27, 2014, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan argues a call during the first half against Baylor in an NCAA men's college basketball tournament regional semifinal, Thursday, March 27, 2014, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan is not one my favorite college basketball coaches. And it’s not like he doesn’t have a bunch of competition.

Ryan brought his Badgers to Oklahoma City back in 2005, the year Bucknell upset Kansas in the first round, and Ryan was all ticked off on Sunday, after Wisconsin beat Bucknell in the second round, saying the Badgers had been ignored in the media during their entire time in OKC.

Uh, Bo, sorry, but a Patriot League team taking down Kansas trumps anything a Big Ten team can do.

But with all that said, Ryan is one heck of a coach. And I like a lot of his practices. Like this one. He does not use a white board to diagram plays.  Or an old-school chalkboard. Ryan just tells his players what to do.

“I don’t use one because, No. 1, if you have all your specials, you’ve worked on them, you say, ‘OK, this is what we do,’” Ryan told a Final Four teleconference Monday. “In practice we’ll go five seconds, down two. Two seconds down one.  Ball is there, taken out of bounds.  X‑number of fouls.  We do those situations, and we have it down to about three or four full‑court options.  Same thing with side‑outs, not 10.

“When we get to those situations, we’ll say, ‘OK, let’s run three, let’s run red, whatever it is that we’re using as our two words at the time.

“The other thing is, have you ever watched a huddle, where the players’ eyes are while the coach is making 15 lines? You look at that thing and you swear it was your four‑year‑old granddaughter who just made a drawing for you.

“Coaches get a little excited with that marker. I like to keep it simple, keep it down to certain options.  So that’s why I don’t use the board.

“But I use the board in practice when we’re maybe looking at a wrinkle, we’re putting something in where we see tendencies of the other team where we feel we can run one look a little bit more than the other.  While we’re relaxed in practice, ‘OK, here is what we’re going to do, here is what this is called, here is the emphasis.’

“That pretty much sums it up.

“I want my players relaxed at that time.  Their eyes are on us.  There’s not any other distractions.  There’s no board for me to throw in case I was ever tempted.  So there it is.  That’s why I don’t use one.”

Solid reasoning. I like it when coaches have valid, particular reasons for the decisions they make. Ryan has one.

He’s a heck of a coach. His Wisconsin teams always are competitive, often overachieve and are not an easy out in March. In 13 Badger seasons, Ryan is 20-12 in the NCAA Tournament.

Now his Badgers are in some ways the Cinderella story of the NCAAs, despite a Final Four that includes a seven-seed (UConn) and an eight-seed (Kentucky). Ryan is a great coach. So long as he stays clear of Oklahoma City.

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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