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December 16, 2015

Chester native Bo Ryan abruptly announces his retirement from Wisconsin

Since taking over the Wisconsin men’s basketball program in 2001, Chester native Bo Ryan has turned the Badgers into a national power. The last two seasons, Wisconsin advanced to the Final Four only to come up agonizingly short of a national title.

Ryan is the all-time winningest coach in program history with 357 victories, 74 percent of his games. So when the soon-to-be 68-year-old announced his retirement after a ho-hum 64-49 win over Texas A&M Corpus Christi on Tuesday night, it was both shocking and a pretty big deal. Check out the video here:

Ryan wanted to step down over the summer, but his retirement was delayed by the cancer diagnosis of lead assistant and now interim head coach Greg Gard’s father.

"But I knew, I knew the energy level ... the speaking, the traveling, the trying to do other things, to help other people — I enjoy doing it, but the thing was, I felt it was time," said an emotional Ryan. "But I couldn't make the decision at the time."

I don’t pretend to know about the inner workings of Wisconsin basketball, but Sports Illustrated’s Seth Davis has a pretty good handle on college hoops. And with Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez wanting to conduct a national search for Ryan’s replacement, Davis writes that Ryan’s retirement is all about giving Gard the chance to replace him permanently:

No, this decision, and the timing, was about one thing and one thing only: giving Greg Gard the best possible shot at being his replacement. It’s an age-old trick, one that was pulled off by North Carolina’s Dean Smith and UConn’s Jim Calhoun, who retired so close to the start of the season that their respective AD’s were forced to name their top assistants as successors (In UConn’s case, Kevin Ollie was given an interim tag, but he was made the permanent head coach a few months later).

The quote comes via the Associated Press.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann