Greg Gard - Wisconsin Badgers

Wisconsin Announces a Changing of the Gard

With the Big Ten tournament underway in Indianapolis, a little bit of weight has been lifted off of coach Greg Gard’s shoulders. The University of Wisconsin announced on Tuesday that they have officially removed the interim tag and named Gard the school’s 16th full time head men’s basketball coach.

Here’s the full press conference from Tuesday.

It was first reported by the Wisconsin State Journal on Monday afternoon that the board of regents approved a five-year contract.

This is a well-deserved promotion for the 45-year-old coach who was thrown into the fire after the sudden December 15th retirement of former head coach Bo Ryan, who had been the school’s head man since 2001. Ryan had just come off of back-to-back final four appearances with a national championship runner-up finish last season.

The legacy of Bo Ryan is indeed a special one as he was no doubt one of the most respected coaches not just in the Big Ten, but in all of college basketball. Ryan put the Wisconsin men’s basketball program back on the map during his tenure while earning a school record 364 wins and never finishing worse than fourth in the Big Ten with four regular season titles.

It seems like big shoes to fill, but no one is more deserving of this position than Gard, who has certainly paid his dues. He is definitely more than ready for this position after serving as an assistant of Ryan’s for 23 years. Greg followed Bo through his days at University of Wisconsin-Platteville, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and of course at the University of Wisconsin. Ryan made it a point that he wanted Gard to succeed him at UW and both have gotten their wish.

Gard, a Wisconsin native from the small town of Cobb, has received insurmountable support from everyone ranging from family, friends, and peers along with current and former players. Here’s what some former Badger studs had to say about the hiring.

Even Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez knew it was an easy decision to bring on Gard full-time.

At the time of Bo Ryan’s departure this season, the Badgers were just 7-5 and had already suffered home losses to Western Illinois and the University of Milwaukee. After Gard took offer, the Badgers finished the regular season with a 13-6 record which consisted of an eight game winning streak and victories over Maryland, Michigan State, Iowa, and 2015-2016 Big Ten regular season champ Indiana.

Before the stunning turnaround, Wisconsin’s chances of making the NCAA tournament for the 18th straight season were in jeopardy. Now, after the program’s 10th straight 20-win season, they are gearing up for another run. Granted, this roster doesn’t have the same firepower as the last two final four teams did, but they definitely have gone through a ton of adversity as a group this season.

After losing Frank Kaminsky (Hornets), Sam Dekker (Rockets), and Duje Dukan (Kings) to the NBA along with captain Josh Gasser, who is playing professionally overseas in Germany (Löwen Braunschweig), the Badgers have turned to juniors Nigel Hayes (first team All-Big Ten) and Bronson Koenig (third team All-Big Ten) to lead the squad with the help of 2015-2016 Big Ten freshman of the year Ethan Happ. All three have averaged in double figures this season with Hayes leading the way at 16.5 points per game, Koenig second at 13.5 points, and Happ a respectable 11.9 points to go along with a team-high 7.8 rebounds per game.

Needless to say, the future of Wisconsin basketball is in good hands with Gard and the program should have much continued success moving forward.

The Badgers are coming off a loss in their final game of regular season at Purdue on Sunday and begin the Big Ten tournament today as the sixth seed. They will be face 11th seeded Nebraska tonight in Indianapolis after the Cornhuskers blew by Rutgers 89-72 on Wednesday night. Tip will be at approximately 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time and can be seen on ESPN2.

BiG Ten Tournament Bracket
Photo Credit: BTN

For a full preview of the Big Ten tournament, check out Deep Dish WL’s Big Ten Tournament podcast.

Follow Jesse on Twitter @jessehardacre44 and stay tuned to Deep Dish WL for all of your Big Ten and NCAA Tournament coverage.

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