Blog Entry

Bo Ryan, always a bridesmaid

Posted on: June 15, 2011 4:13 pm
Edited on: June 15, 2011 4:25 pm
By Matt Norlander

New brethren Jeff Goodman has a column up today that ranks the college coaches, aligning them by age bracket. It's a fairly good, accurate, controversy-free list, though I'm calling you out, Jeff, for not having the stones to eliminate ties in your rankings. Clearly you're just scared to ruffle feathers or tick off a guy like Jay Wright by leaving him off such an esteemed ranking. We all know how Wright's got that crazy temper, too. I understand the hesitation. (Side note: Frank Martin's one more very good year away from deserving a spot in that column. Scope his consistency.)

But for as sensible as the list is, I have to ask: Where's Bruce Weber? Kidding. Seriously, what about Bo Ryan, though? When will this man get some constant respect, huh? Ryan couldn't crack the 60-and-over genre on Goodman's list, as it was populated by automatics such as Coach K, Jim Calhoun and Jim Boeheim. But below that massive drop-off, guys like Steve Fisher, Mike Montgomery and Rick Majerus clear the bar. Why? They've all got something Ryan doesn't: a Final Four appearance.

You can make the case Ryan's as good as any of the guys above. The only thing (aside from the Final Four caveat) that goes against him is a lack of longevity. Ryan's only coached at the D-I level for 12 years. (Fisher: 21; Majerus: 24; Montgomery: 29.)

Ryan is stigmatized by the way his teams play: deliberately, and at a tick that tends to keep the Badgers from swimming into the 60s and 70s in a lot of their games. Combine that with no Final Fours, and Ryan's not nearly the household name he should be. The man has turned the Kohl Center into one of the toughest arenas to win in. The Badgers went 16-0 in 2010-11 at home, and under Ryan the team is 152-11 when playing in white threads.

Ryan has four D-III national championships and made Wisconsin into a legitimately feared and respected team atop the Big Ten -- annually. His winning percentage in D-I is .697. That's better than Montgomery's .685 and Fisher's -- who has had wins vacated -- .640 (Majerus sits at .702).

But since he's made three Four Sweet 16s and only one Elite Eight in his 10 years at Wisconsin, he's not considered elite. There's only one first-round tournament loss on his resume, for what that's worth, and Ryan has never missed the NCAAs since he started the job in Madison 10 years ago.

My thing is, I've always considered Ryan to be Tom Izzo without the Final Fours or the national title. That doesn't sound like a compliment, but it is. I can only hope the 63-year-old coach gets his Final Four appearance in the next five years. He deserves it for the way he runs his program and his offense. If he doesn't get there, to that still-elusive Final Four, Ryan should go down as one of the best to never get there, next to guys like Temple coach John Chaney, who will always be the primary symbol for greatest long-term success without college basketball's biggest reward.

He's respected by people within the sport, but there's still a glass ceiling that should be shattered. Maybe it's the fact he came into the D-I game so late, maybe that's why he's not more credited with the impressive, unthinkable job he's done with the Badgers. But if Ryan's not one of the five best coaches in the game over 60 years old, he's as close as he could possibly be to breaking that threshold. As close as he is to reaching a Final Four, Wisconsin fans should hope.

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB

Since: Jun 17, 2011
Posted on: June 17, 2011 10:09 am

Bo Ryan, always a bridesmaid

He's a great coach but if you want to be considered in the top tier of coaches you have to get your team to the championship game.  It's that simple.

Since: Jun 16, 2011
Posted on: June 16, 2011 8:39 pm

Bo Ryan, always a bridesmaid

Wish we could play Michigan State every game.  Izzo would love it.  Research what he thinks about playing Wisconsin since Ryan's been in the Big Ten.

Since: Jun 16, 2011
Posted on: June 16, 2011 8:37 pm

Bo Ryan, always a bridesmaid

Bo is the Man in college basketball here in the cnetral US of A.  Ask Izzo how much he enjoys coaching against a Wisconsin team.  Kids shooting poorly in a tournament game is his downfall.  How do you coach shooting IN a game?  Maybe Wisconsing 's swin is too easy to defend, yet their yearly record would not seem to holf water for that argument.  Anyway, poor shooting at inopportune times.That explains the tourney losses to UNLV, Davidson, Xavier, and, what's wrong with losing to Butler in that they've made the championship game twice in the last two years...but does not excuse the losses.  The Kohl Center is a heck of a site for a collge bb game.  Ever been there?  Absolutely awesome, just as the teams are.  Bo Ryan does this gig the RIGHT way, developing his players, not necessarily recruiting the phenoms that are 1 and done.

Since: Sep 23, 2006
Posted on: June 16, 2011 6:37 pm

Bo Ryan, always a bridesmaid

Bo Ryan is the perfect fit for Wisconsin. Mediocre coach at a mediocre program!

Since: Oct 26, 2006
Posted on: June 16, 2011 5:04 pm

Bo Ryan, always a bridesmaid

Diehard Wisconsin fan, but all I have to say is Butler, Cornell, Davidson, Xavier, UNLV....those are the five schools Wisconsin has lost to in the tourney. They always under-achieve come tourney time. 

Since: Jan 17, 2008
Posted on: June 16, 2011 12:27 pm

Bo Ryan, always a bridesmaid

Ryan is stigmatized by the fact that is team routinely comes up short in the NCAA tourney, not by his team's style of play. With all the good teams that Ryan has had, he has only made it past the Sweet Sixteen ONCE.  

Since: Jul 11, 2008
Posted on: June 15, 2011 4:58 pm

...and Dana Altman

Getting up there (50-60)

* Dana Altman, Oregon: No deep NCAA runs, but consistently overachieving teams at K-State and Creighton, and is off to a great start at Oregon.

He led K-State to 3 consecutive postseason appearances in 4 years.

He led Creighton to 13 consecutive postseason appearances, a stretch of 11 straight seasons with 20-plus wins, all while producing 10 or more league victories in each of the last 14 seasons. Those three feats have gone unmatched in the 103 years of the Missouri Valley Conference.

He has won four Coach-of-the-Year awards from three different conferences spanning 13 seasons, including back-to-back MVC coaching honors while he was at the Omaha, Neb., educational institution in 2001 and 2002. Altman was a finalist for the Naismith National Coach of the Year Award and was named the NABC District 12 and USBWA District VI Coach of the Year following the 2002-03 campaign.

Creighton participated in seven NCAA Mens Basketball Tournaments and five National Invitation Tournaments under Altman, advancing to the second round of the NCAA championships in both the 1998-99 and 2001-02 seasons.

Age: 52
Career record: 554-285 (26 seasons) (.660)
National championships: 0
Final Four appearances: 0

Consistently great coaching at less than elite schools. It is about the coaching, after all.

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