Bo Ryan ‘a pretty lucky guy’ to be on verge of 300 wins at Wisconsin

MADISON, Wis. — The way Bo Ryan sees it, he’s “a

pretty lucky guy” to be one victory from achieving another milestone in

his coaching career. Of course, it takes more than luck to reach the cusp of

300 wins at one school.

It also requires being a pretty good coach.

Only eight other coaches have won at least 300 games at a

Big Ten school. Ryan, whose Wisconsin record is 299-113, can become the ninth

when No. 8 Wisconsin (8-0) travels to face Virginia (7-1) at 6 p.m. CT

Wednesday in Charlottesville, Va., as part of the annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

Among the eight coaches already in the 300-win club, only

Indiana’s Bobby Knight (.734) has a better winning percentage than Ryan (.726).

The other coaches are: Purdue’s Gene Keady and Ward Lambert, Michigan State’s

Tom Izzo and Jud Heathcote, Illinios’ Lou Henson and Harry Combes and Indiana’s

Branch McCracken.

Ryan is no stranger to accomplishing the 300-win mark at one

program. He went 353-76 (.823 winning percentage) as a coach at Division III

UW-Platteville. But achieving such a feat at a Division I program like

Wisconsin will be particularly meaningful for him.

“I got the job when I was older here at 53,” Ryan,

65, said Monday during his weekly news conference. “How many guys get a

chance to be in this position of a school like Wisconsin at 53? I’m living the

dream. You know, I’m a pretty lucky guy. I’m not afraid to admit it.

“So if there’s a number attached to it, I can go back

and think of 50, 100, 150 and think of games and think of the players and the

plays that they made, how tough they were, and all those types of memories and

what they’re doing now, what a lot of the players are doing now that added to

that total of 299 to this point.

“If and when the 300th comes, it will be like anything

else — like when people have anniversaries. You think about the first time.

You think about halfway in between. You think about all the things that have

transpired. So I’m a pretty lucky guy.”

In a unique twist, Ryan will coach against Virginia’s Tony

Bennett, who was an assistant coach at Wisconsin with Ryan’s first team in

2001-02. Back on Nov. 23, 2001, Ryan earned the first of his victories when

Wisconsin defeated Hawaii-Hilo 78-62.

“I remember Coach’s system starting to take hold,”

Bennett said Monday. “We were running the swing. I remember that

game.”

Bennett noted his most significant memory from Ryan’s first

season at Wisconsin was when the Badgers found a way to knock off in-state rival

and 14th-ranked Marquette, 86-73, at the Kohl Center just one month later.

“I don’t want to say coming out party,” Bennett

said. “But we played Marquette at home in that first year against a very

good Marquette team and really took it to them. I remember just hurting them in

a bunch of different ways. I thought that was a significant statement of how

this program was going to be continually established and how we were going to

play. …

“Three-hundred wins in that short amount of time is

very impressive.”

Badgers move up: Wisconsin climbed two spots to No. 8 in the

latest Associated Press Top 25 Poll, released Monday. It marks the highest the

Badgers have been ranked since coming in at No. 6 to end the 2007-08 season.

Wisconsin also moved up two spots in the coaches poll to No. 9. 

The Badgers won both games last week to capture the Cancun

Challenge championship, beating Saint Louis 63-57 and West Virginia 70-63.

Sophomore forward Sam Dekker earned tournament most valuable player honors

after posting his first career double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds in

the title game. Point guard Traevon Jackson also earned all-tournament honors

after averaging 11.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game.

Wisconsin’s 8-0 start to the season is the best since UW

opened the 1993-94 season 11-0 under coach Stu Jackson.

Ryan was asked if this was the best team he’d ever had at

Wisconsin.

“I never compare teams,” he said. “You can’t

do that because each year is different. Sometimes, if you look at schedules,

sometimes they play into your favor to a certain point, and sometimes they

don’t. But I thought we played good teams and we played pretty well, but it’s early yet. It’s like, you know, you

bring up we’re 8-0, but, oh, by the way, you have Virginia and Marquette this

week.

“I know all our weaknesses, and I know some of our

strengths, and I’m still looking for more strengths. So I’m probably not the

guy to ever ask those kinds of questions to.”

Ryan on Bennett: Bennett has an especially intimate knowledge

of Wisconsin’s patented swing offense, and Virginia’s overall style of play —

defensive toughness, smart offensive possessions — does mirror some of the

Badgers’ style over the years. Despite those similarities, Ryan said Bennett

had developed his own personality as a coach since his days on the Wisconsin

sideline next to Ryan.

“He’s his own basketball guy,” Ryan said.

“Tony knows how the game is played before he was an assistant with me, and

he’s even smarter now that he’s had a chance to do this. That’s where you

really get to be better as a coach. You get to do things on your own because

the buck stops here. And Tony’s welcomed that challenge and done it pretty

well.”

Last season, Bennett’s Virginia team knocked off Wisconsin

60-54 at the Kohl Center.

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