After beating Ohio State yesterday, the Wisconsin Badgers, and their coach, Bo Ryan, are getting lots of praise. All of a sudden, Bo knows the spotlight. And anyone paying attention has to acknowledge that his accomplishments are quite impressive.
He’s taken the Badgers to the Sweet Sixteen a few times, and the Elite Eight once. He’s had them at the top of the polls, and consistently in the top 20. The Badgers are 150-11 under Ryan at home. Seriously. 150-11.
So, how good is he? I’m certainly not here to bash him, but I have to note that the reason he’s 150-11, and, yet, still not typically discussed among the greats like Coach K, Tom Izzo, Jim Boeheim, Jim Calhoun, and a handful of others, is that he’s never won the whole thing.
I was talking to one of my friends who graduated from Wisconsin about Bo, and acknowledged that I didn’t realize just how impressive his accomplishments were. (This was on Friday, before the upset of Ohio State.) I also, though, noted that he’s the coach of a big-time program that consistently ranks in the top 20. He’s got the profile and the resources to compete with anyone.
My friend’s answer was that he doesn’t recruit stars — he plays a specific system and he only recruits guys who are able to excel in that system. He doesn’t want hotshot young talents, and they don’t want to play for him.
I think my friend is right, and Ryan deserves some credit for sticking to his principles. But, at the end of the day, is it a strength or a weakness?
Think about it. Why doesn’t he win championships? Because he doesn’t recruit the caliber of player it takes to win championships. Why doesn’t he — the coach of a big-time program with plenty of resources — recruit that caliber of player? Because he has a specific system, and he only recruits guys who will excel in that system. And why does he stick so strictly to that system? Because he wants to win.
Well, ok… then shouldn’t we judge him by whether he won the whole thing or not?
Again, I’m not bashing the guy, I’m just raising the point. How highly do we rank him among other coaches? He runs his program with principles and discipline, and beats lots of good teams in the process. But he doesn’t win the whole thing, which is generally what we expect great coaches to do.
Thoughts? I hope you’ll share them. In the meantime, lookout for the Badgers. They’re climbing up the rankings, winning as a disciplined team, without any superstars. Because, well, their coach doesn’t want any.