It is not often that we give a salute to an opponent here. While we all appreciate the work Tom Crean is doing in Bloomington, the announcement that Bo Ryan is retiring effective immediately took us by surprise last night. He is also worth a salute.
Bo Ryan is an old school coach. His sideline tantrums have become fuel for internet memes, but at the same time you always respected him. I think as Purdue fans we have a soft spot for him because he reminds us so much of Gene Keady. He has never been one to grab McDonald's All-Americans and stack his teams with talent, but he got the absolute most out of the talent available. His teams were based on hard work, fundamentals, and defense. We may not have liked it when Joe Krabbenhoft laid out Lewis Jackson on a pick at midcourt, but we can respect that the move was made because Krabbenhoft made a very Gene Keady-esque move. He was supposed to help a teammate with a tough play away from the ball and set the tone early that they were going to play physical. Yes, the shoulder into it was excessive, but we all know Gene loved a hard screen.
Bo Ryan epitomized what tough, hard-nosed basketball was. Perhaps that is why Purdue was one of the few teams that had some success against him in Madison. We weren't afraid to get dirty and get dragged into a rock fight with his teams. His teams may not have played the prettiest basketball, but they won. All wins are pretty.
I can also respect what Bo Ryan did for Wisconsin. Bucky's 5th Quarter had a great breakdown of what the Ryan era meant. From 1951-1992 Wisconsin was abjectly terrible. They were only better than Northwestern. Stu Jackson and Dick Bennett had a nice 10 year run, culminating in the 2000 Final Four they denied Keady, but this was a team that did not play in a single NCAA Tournament between 1947 and 1994.
Before Ryan took over the Badgers had been to seven NCAA Tournament and 2 Finals Fours, with five appearances and one Final Four in the immediate 7 years before he became head coach. In the following 14 years he never missed the NCAA Tournament, won four conference championships (including the first since 1947), three conference tournaments, went to seven Sweet 16s, three Elite 8's, two Final Fours, and was a national runner-up. Wisconsin only had a first round loss in the NCAA Tournament once under Ryan, and that was in 2006.
We should also mention that he guided Wisconsin to extremely rare wins in Mackey Arena. From 1972 until 2005 Wisconsin never won in Mackey Arena. they beat gene Keady's final team in 2005, which was abjectly awful, and won in both 2012 and 2014. that's it for Wisconsin wins in West Lafayette in the last 43 years, and all three came under Ryan.
Let's not forget what Ryan did at Division III. He won four national championships at Wisconsin-Platteville. Twice, his teams finished the season undefeated ad national champions. His team even won the Division III national title in the first year they moved up to Division III from NAIA.
Ryan will finish his career with a 747-233 record across all divisions. That is an absurd .762 winning percentage. Even more impressive, HIS TEAMS HAVE NEVER PLAYED ON THURSDAY OF THE BIG TEN TOURNAMENT!!!! In 14 years he never finished lower than 4th in the Big Ten, one of the toughest conferences in America.
I wish Ryan could have gone out better. It looks like Purdue, Michigan State, and Maryland will finish 1-2-3 in some order this year, but even with a very slow start I did not doubt Ryan could have finished fourth yet again and somehow dragged this team back to the NCAA Tournament.
So, we salute you, Bo Ryan. Thank you for making ugly basketball beautiful. Thank you for being a wonderful foil that always had a great candid attitude off the court. Thank you for being a hard edged coach that wasn't a total dick like Bob Knight. May you have a long, well deserved retirement.